From Marshal To Guardian, Part One: The Crossing

Among the Books

The Great Ga'Hoole Tree, Southern-Kingdoms

Close to 10:40 p.m.

Christopher Barnes Markson, ex-TSA

The first thing Markson spotted upon entering the hollow was its presumed owner and inhabitant - an owl with brown and white spots, two blends of colours that Chris was very accustomed with by this time - towering over a horribly organised pile (to be brutally honest though, more of a mountain) of many different books, papers, scrolls, and other written versions of the aforementioned possessions, varying in both size and quality; some were ragged along the edges, the rest appeared to be in perfect condition. The previously mentioned owl, although not clear if deliberately or indirectly, but seemed to be not noticing Barnes as he entered through the opening of the hollow.

After these, Markson began to notice everything else that could be found in the space of this location: the rest of the hollow was, in actuality, not that distinct from the above mentioned; as a fact, Chris would have been able to sum up the description of the whole place with the words „unorganised" and „untended"; just like a scientist's office or laboratory that had, at least, eight experiments occurring at the same time.

In the left corner of the hollow, some types of (presumably) scientific instruments, not being far away in relation from beakers, were placed in an everything-but-neat pile; however, the only difference these items beared was their material: regular beakers were, normally, made out of glass, yet, these counterparts were metal. Thus, using the power of deduction and conclusion, this equipment could not possibly have been used for the observation of liquids or any other chemical substances.

The right side was, presently, visually blocked, and Chris was not able to determine what lay behind the trunk, taking that the main reason for this was the weird formation of the hollow. Still, Markson could imagine the stacks of paper and some other miscellaneous items and equipment that were housed in the currently unseeable corner.

After five long seconds, that felt like five whole minutes to Barnes, he settled upon the decision of acting; he cleared his throat to gently signal his presence (and, although there were a few other possible options the ex-marshal could have considered, he has not done this with any of the alternatives), which sounded considerably louder than he had planned on; albeit the volume of his previous doing was, incomprehensibly, on the field of sound, emphasised enough to be clearly heard, no visible physical reactions were given by the owl as a response, or even a sign of detection.

Stuck in the position of not being able to decide on what action to take next, Barnes just stayed quiet, speculating on different ideas and explanations; maybe, the bird did not acknowledge Chris' presence because he might not have finished his own line of thoughts - some had this little personality-fragment about them. Then again, most mention this minimal, but crucial piece of information, at least giving a form of signal that certifies that, in fact, they have heard and understood, but require a short amount of time to sort out their own mental thought-processes.

Markson allowed the short time-span of ten seconds to take its turn, awkwardly shifting his relatively light body's weight from one foot to the other, already starting to pre-plan his next sentence.

When he finished with the construction of his to-be-said statement, Barnes gave himself - however, realistically, the owl - another five seconds, then, he - rather cautiously, but just for the given moment - spoke.

- Uh... excuse me? - the owl, at this point, picked up a feather quill from his right (which was probably from, well, his own wing), then dipped its tip into a glass that contained a dark liquid (presumably ink, judging by the colour), which, by some type of unimaginable miracle, managed to stay perfectly still and balanced on another mound of papers; following this, the owl took a clear and empty piece of sheet from one of the „parchment-mountains", and began to write.

None of these actions appeared to have occurred due to Chris; yet, notwithstanding by this fact, the ex-marshal carried on with his devised plan of establishing a fix conversation by verbal communication - Uh... Valery said that you will be able to help me? I am not sure if you know her, but, uh... - Barnes has originally started these off as declarative sentences, yet, due to his uncertainty, which was caused by the unusually reactionless behaviour of the owl, the former turned into a question, and the latter was not fully finished; both sentences came out unconvincingly.

On a side-note, though, the owl himself still did not gave off a single visible or physical reaction that would have suggested his acknowledgement to Barnes' presence; he only kept writing his lately acquired parchment.

Despite Markson's knowing of this situation not being the best to start losing patience, Chris could not help himself, and exhaled in a heavy - what is more, horribly and dangerously loud - fashion; luckily enough, the owl either did not hear it, or just could not afford or bother to care.

Barnes had, however, played around with the thought beforehand, and he theorised that the bird's hearing might be impaired, or, to top it, maybe he was just simply deaf; although, due to the limited knowledge Chris was presently in possession of about the possible disabilities and illnesses of owls, he disbanded the idea, and have the apparent problem another relatively short time of thirty seconds.

„What could be the reason of this constant ignoring? Have I forgot to knock, or what?", wondered Markson, honestly not being capable enough to figure out the behaviour of the bird. „Maybe he does not even knows who Valery is; after all, this tree could have about a total number of... well, maybe way more than a hundred owls living in it. That would be the unlucky case though!", he commented on his own thoughts with a bitter taste.

After those, again, needlessly long seconds passed along, Chris asked another one of his previously devised questions.

- Sorry, I am seriously not aiming to bother you or anything, but I have been told that you will be able to help me - reasoned Markson, yet, no responsive actions were given back to him. Having a few nerves pulled by now, Barnes attempted to hurry this up - Okay, now I am not sure if you are able to hear me, but if you could just... - but here and then, unexpected on the highest possible level by the ex-marshal, the owl, finally, began to speak, directly to Chris at that.

However, the way and style he started to speak with suggested that he, to say at the very least, was rather bothered and annoyed; his tone was stressed and indignant, and yet, it rang crystal-clear and strictly through the hollow, on such a level that - Chris, involuntarily, had to admit - even his own heart had speeded up a bit from the sudden and quite violent reaction of the owl.

Barnes was not entirely sure, but he had the vague speculation that the cause of this unexpected temperamental outburst was from his own self; maybe he disrupted the owl in the middle of something fairly important; maybe he did not.

Nevertheless, the bird himself accompanied his more-than furious emotional and physical statement with a verbal counterpart as well.

- Do you see what I am doing here? - he snapped at Markson in a harsh, aggressive approach, finally turning his head, which gave accommodation to two piercing eyes, their yellow glint shining with temper, but the signs of intellect not being hidden away by anything at all.

Not wishing to deteriorate the conversation towards the turbulent and hostile end, Chris, in a, presumably, futile desperation, attempted to pull himself out from the potential point of the crisis.

- Sorry, I... I thought that you could not... - tried Barnes, but the owl was, at the given moment, not even planning to focus his attention on Markson; in lieu, he carried on with his personal monologue of frustration and nerve.

- How am I supposed to concentrate on my work when, every now and then, another, another, and yet another owl comes to me with a stupid and pointless question! - he violently smashed his pen (the feather-quill that was, more than likely, his own) into the paper he was, a second ago, writing on, sending a minuscule, but worrying tremor down the mound of paper that, hitherto, resembled the perfect definition of the word „instability" - This investigation and research I was asked to conduct requires me to think carefully and thoroughly about every single detail, be it little or massive in size, to figure out why this happened, how it happened, and how we could reverse it; I am unable to do this with an owl constantly hooting in my ear! - in this short span of time, the small frustration the owl started out with escalated into a proper fury and displeasure - I do not have time for broken flasks or weather-interpretation equipment; now go, and tell this to whoever has sent you to... - however, prior to the owl coming to the end of his intended sentence, he, all of a sudden, simply, halted his speech; his eyes widened as some type of realisation or revelation came upon him, making the bird to, as a reflex, change his facial expression to a mix of awe and surprise.

Nonetheless, after an alarmingly short span of time, the latter faded away from the owl's face, and, instead - during the whole length of a moment's fragment - transformed into suspicion, regular dislike, and enmity as the owl squinted his eyes.

„At least", thought Chris, „he is not shouting anymore!", a minor relief passing through him in total inertia.

- You are our so-called Silverbeak, are not you? - asked the bird, maintaining a constant facial gesture through the whole process of him almost spitting out the words of the above spoken sentence; now, when Barnes took a closer look and proper examination, he came to the conclusion that the owl was shaking: either from anger or from fear, he did not knew, however, the puffed-up feathers and plumage was rather suggestive towards a threatening posture.

Thus, using common sense, anyone - including the ex-marshal himself - would have settled with the former option; after all, it was all rather obvious.

At this point, Chris came to a tough decision, if it could be called that; he was an opportunist, but he never went against something that he has once stated; despite this, he knew that, when conversations - much like this one - contained issues of trust at their cores (which limited the level of confidence and faith for both sides that were opposing each other), the best way to restore stability and to dissipate these problems was to drop confidentiality (at least, in the given moment, this would, potentially, have the most well-functioning outcome); essentially, there was only one question circling around in his head, and that was about the „do-or-not".

A swift blitzkrieg went ahead and finished in three seconds flat in Chris' brain; he came to his decision, and was about to execute it.

- Listen, I know that someone has stuck this name on me - Markson attempted to bail himself out of this - No one knows this, but my real name is... - but, before he could reach the end of his sentence, the owl interrupted him.

- Spare me your self-explaining monologues! - hissed the owl at Chris - I do not wish to get acquainted with someone who attacks those who wish to help him! - he sent minatory look towards the ex-marshal.

In that instant of the present moment, Barnes had no idea what the owl was talking about, but, after a short second of thinking, it all came back to his mind; Matthias - that was his name, if Markson remembered it correctly - the bird in the infirmary that he successfully subdued; still, at that time, he was interpreting things differently, compared to now.

The owl must have saw an instinctive reaction on Chris' face as he recalled these past events, given that what he said next suggested this in a direct manner:

- You remember now, do not you? - asked the owl in a smug style, somehow managing to imply a smirking-expression with his beak; another thing for Barnes to „marvel" at - Tell me; how hard was it to kill an unarmed medic?

This shocked the ex-marshal from his feet to the top of his feathered head; surely, he applied some force to Matthias' throat, but that does not means that he shattered his windpipe!

Or does it? Markson had a fearful doubt growing inside him, his stomach feeling like it was digesting itself; he killed before, but he never took an innocent life.

- I only subdued him, he is not dead...! - he reassured the owl, but, in reality, he only struggled on self-conviction.

- Is he? - the bird cut him off once again, tilting his head slightly to the left, obviously being sarcastic; his tone gave it all away - The last time I checked the body, it was not moving much...

That „cliffhanger" the bird left at the end of his sentence deeply bothered Markson and upset him in many ways; „No, this just cannot be true!", he thought, „I know my limits, and back then... that was nowhere near death!".

- You are bluffing - he declared to the owl, although his tone was not even close to confident; nevertheless, his words were honest and challenging. He meant was he was saying.

- Oh, am I now? - another sarcastic remark from the owl, which marked the beginning of the point where Chris started to lose some of his patience - You knew me for about three minutes, and you make this statement so freely? I expected at least a bit more from a backstabbing snake...

„Let it slide, he is just toying with you!", told Barnes to himself, „He wants you to react, to lose it! Do not let him!".

- I am good at reading people, and I stick with my version of the story, understood? - he went on offense now, not leaving (or, at least, giving less) room for the bird to maneuver in.

- Do not you dare „understood" me! - he raised his voice, but Chris braced himself long ago for anything similar; without any further ado, the bird carried on - You began to speak more loosely, something you have not earned the right to do yet! - ensuing this, an unsettling shadow descended on the owl's face, his yellow eyes giving off a shine of threat - I know what you are; however, the less I do about the reason that you are here for - said the owl, constantly and steadily glaring at Markson - Would not you want to tell me? - the question itself was sharp and straight, definitely demanding an answer, no matter what; despite this, Barnes was not going to satisfy the bird with a sufficient reply: not because he did not chose to.

It was due to him not knowing the answer; it was actually quite surprising that, for the time he was here, be that a day or two, he never wondered about the „why" question. Indeed, why was he here, and for what purpose?

Chris believed that everything happened for a reason: if this was karma, someone must have had a truly botched sense of humour.

And, though this was significant to contemplate around with, Barnes, straightforwardly, did not have time for this right now; he was still in the hollow of the owl, and the bird was still glaring at him, not looking keen on giving up.

- Alright, listen, Felias, is it? - asked Markson, however, he did not actually knew the owl's name; he remembered that Irvis and Matthias (the name now sent a shiver down the ex-marshal's spine) were having a discussion were they mentioned someone who, supposedly, was not the happiest when disturbed in the middle of his work. There and then, the two used the name Felias; putting one and one together, Chris took his chances here. After all, what was the worst that could happen?

- Say my name again and I will personally remove you from this hollow! - warned the bird, creating a rather ironic and ridiculous situation, as Barnes was at least double the size of him.

Nevertheless, he apologised, now attempting to avoid any further escalation into conflict; at the least, he now knew that his hunch about the name was correct.

- Fine, sorry; I believe we have got off on the wrong foot here! - he was aiming to appease the bird, having a half-success so far; Felias was still glaring, but, at least, he stopped shaking from his nerves - I was sent by Valery, she said that you will be able to help me out - no response came from the owl, for now - That must mean something!

- Yes, it means that an all-heart Guardian decided that it is such a smart decision to trust someone who committed murder not more than a day ago; I prefer to call that... absurdity, to be honest with you! - stated Felias, now returning to his sarcastic tone once again.

- Listen! - it was now Barnes' turn to raise his voice, which cut the owl's monologue short; the ex-marshal had enough, and now wanted to get somewhere - Believe me when I say this; I have as much intention of being at this tree then anyone else here wants me to! My only problem is that I have no idea how I got here, or for what purpose - the traces of distrust and anger have slowly slipped away from Felias' face, exchanged by a minor and unsure grimace; Chris has sighed - This is where I need your help; the faster I find out what happened to me, the quicker I will become someone else's problem! - of course, now Markson was just playing along with the drama; he finally wanted to crack the owl, and he was running out of patience.

Felias glanced away for a minute, seemingly deep in his thoughts, supposedly trying to figure out an excuse or an objection against Chris' request.

However, the response that came from him was the least expected by the ex-marshal, as, apparently, the owl has agreed to help; to an extent, that is.

- Need my help, you say? - asked Felias, now sounding calmer, but still rather suspicious - I am too busy to chick-sit you right now, but I could direct you in the correct direction, taking that there is any - he took out another piece of blank and empty parchment from one of the mounds, and inscribed a few words on it - Here, take this! - when he finished, he handed it over to Chris, who took it with one foot - The name of a few books that might give you some further insight on... what you think is, or was, happening to you - the owl hopped back to his elevated position, then perched on its top again - Just go to the Great Library, they have them there - he turned his head back towards the ex-marshal, who nodded, signaling his appreciation.

Then, a major problem popped into Markson's mind - ...And where exactly is this library? - he inquired, but, this time, Felias returned to his usual style, and a dry and apathetic reply came.

- Ask around and find it out yourself! - the sarcastic ways have returned once again; not too soon though, Barnes has almost began to miss them by now - As I have said, I have...

- ...Better things to do, alright, I get it - Chris finished off the owl's sentence, already starting to back out from the hollow; now, he took a 180 degrees turn around, and exited the hollow, for another time, finding himself in the so-called corridor.

He was about to walk off to the right, yet, before he could take a step, a voice called out his „nickname"; Markson turned his head (and only his head; he actually began to find this quite... cool), and spotted a Barn owl, roughly a meter away from him, walking closer by the seconds' passing (however, it would be interesting to note down that now, since his size was reduced to a small fraction of a human's, the measured distance appeared to be larger and longer as well).

- Silverbeak? - he asked, to which Chris was swift to reply to.

- Call me that, if you want to - he said, then, immediately after, continued - Yes?

- Valery sent me to be your... well, I am not going to lie, „temporal warden"; I am only going to watch you from a comfortable distance, that is all - Barnes nodded, agreeing to the previous - By the way, my name is Lyran; just... for the formalities.

- Chr... - began the ex-marshal, but quickly cut off his own sentence, and pretended it to be his throat hurting - Sorry, I swallowed in a bad way, it is fine now.

- Okay... - commented Lyran, not paying much attention to Markson's slip-of-the-tongue.

- Now, since you are here... - started of Chris, attracting the eye contact of the Barn owl - ...You could help me out with something.

- What would that be? - requested the bird, giving off a light, friendly smile towards Barnes.

- Do you happen to know where the... „Great Library" is? - answered the ex-marshal with a question, receiving an instant answer a second later.

- Certainly - said Lyran - If you would follow me.

- Oh, and one small request? - asked Markson, to which the owl signaled with a „hm" sound, telling Chris to carry on - If you could, please choose a route that does not includes flying.

- If you really want me to... - shrugged the bird, heading off to the right; Barnes was right behind him.

- Terrific - he muttered under his breath, but was entirely assured that the Barn owl heard it; however, he, luckily, had not reacted to it.

The Library, Great Ga'Hoole Tree, Southern-Kingdoms

Close to 11:30 p.m.

Christopher Barnes Markson, ex-TSA

The on-the-foot way to the library reminded Chris of a hardcore labyrinth, or one of those „find-your-own-route" games, as he ceased the attempt of memorising the inconsistent pattern of lefts and rights after the eighth turn; Markson had to admit that this place was exactly identical to an enormous maze when one was trying to get around the whole place on foot – obviously, this tree was definitely designed for flyers, and was less supportive towards walkers (of course, the word „designed" does not attempts to imply that anyone has physically built this place; this thought of Chris was entirely metaphorical).

Nevertheless, while his „little and short" walk – with the leading of Lyran - took its irritatingly long time and place – which basically consisted of an endless walk through the seemingly forever twisting and everlasting passages of the tree's inner body and structure – many other owls on the way have gave that specific eye to Barnes as they passed next to the ex-marshal; but not in an almost non-noticeable or discreet - oh no! If Chris would not have known better, he would have believed that there was something on his face; ironically enough, that was just the right case.

They knew of who he was and of what he did: Markson was able to tell about these things, he was experienced enough for that.

These owls' gazes were bearing grudges and resentment, incriminating Chris with their piercing glares (even the void-dark eyes of some, mostly Barn owls, and some other species the ex-marshal was unable to identify), sending their message loud and clear towards Barnes: he was not welcome here, and every thought about him could have been summed up in, more or less, the same.

However; as much as Markson's brain was keeping a focus on this thought alone, these ideas were only a projection of his own mind, made real only by the guilt that was lingering around his head, induced by the news of Matthias' death; realistically, the percentage of ninety could not possibly have had a clue on who he was; even Valery mentioned that only a „precious few" had a partial knowledge about Chris' assumed identity. Essentially, he was being paranoid, a thing he never was in his whole life and career, taken the importance of his used-to-be job; now… now, he was not even trusting his own common sense, taking that his brain had just tricked him into the belief that he murdered an innocent - let us state - „civilian".

In reality, it was safe to believe that the owls at this tree had no clear opinion on him, what is more, in fact! Most definitely had no idea who he even was! The most likely reason of why the higher percentage passersby have took a glance at him was that he did not appeared to visually look like any of these owls (taken his unknown species); plus, the almost shining silver beak and the clear, ocean-blue eyes were more than discernible, being an obvious reason for all the weird look that Markson has received in the past minutes.

Then again, this was only his conscience that was playing this game with Chris; the only real complication that would have caused a headache to anyone was that this game was played too damn well by the ex-marshal's inner voice.

The long desired destination - the library - itself had a rather peculiar physical shape and form, once again showing Barnes' eyes something entirely new and fresh to take in: the hollow (as this place was still a hollow, only differentiating away from all the others with its size) appeared to have its top section - or, respectably, „ceiling" - higher than other, previously already seen hollows, plus, the given space was enormous, compared to the other spaces Chris has seen in the past hours; summed up, the library, assumedly, received the title „great" for its size, not only for its hardly believable deposit of books (which was yet another feature to marvel at).

It occurred to Markson that there were a few separate sections, like petite, private reading-rooms, established for discreet study and for isolated reading - only that these were hollow spots in the hollow itself, including in themselves something that resembled a desk, facing - but not fully - downwards in a forty-five degrees angle, with a little outcrop at the bottom, providing an easy and excellent stopping point for any book that was susceptible to slide down (either from its weight, position, or by the material of its cover), which, as in most cases, would have been induced by the power of gravity, and a thicker, imaginably… „talon-crafted" perch to be sat on, decorated with one brass-looking metal brace on both of its ends.

The main interest of the library - which were, expectedly, the books themselves - , as mentioned once above, were quite numerous: lines and lines of shelf-like structures, each containing at least five dozen books, all bearing front covers that were constructed or crafted from animal skin, the leather of some small rodent, maybe a rabbit, their titles inscribed by something much more expensive, as these were either of golden or silver colours, both types of letters shining beautifully, evocatively, and yet, still vividly, in the moon's and the oil lamps' (as those were also present here) light.

A few other owls were present in the library, assumedly those who have had more of a scholar's background; however, by this point, Markson gave up on trying, and was not even attempting to identify any of the species that were perching around this massive hollow. All of them - but one - were either reading a book, or were having a private, but respectably quiet conversation (some with a book, but some were without this scholarly object); the final category were those who, apparently, preferred solitude, and took the clear advantage of the above mentioned, isolated sections.

However, the previously already highlighted owl was not doing any of these above mentioned actions, although, instead, was silently sitting on his - presumably - usual branch, hardly noticeable for the naked eye (even if that was an owl's), quietly glaring in the direction of Markson, yet, it was hard for Chris to determined if he was looking towards him directly, or at something in his vicinity; the ex-marshal brain was crossed by the thought that he might be one of Valery's associates, assigned to watch Barnes, most definitely for the unlikely case if Markson would have came up with the insane and wild thought of running, planning on getting away on foot - or on the wing, but it was no secret that he was unable to do that anyway.

„Let them watch!", thought Barnes challengingly, unwillingly letting a „beak-smile" to form on his face; Markson, before he became a marshal for the TSA, was well-experienced in private-jobs for self-made contractors. One of these businesses consisted of the close observation of a specific target or suspect, usually someone who was seeming or acting suspicious to the higher-ups; „At least", thought Chris, „I will see now what the other end of the knife looks like!".

- So, this would be the library? - asked Markson, however, he did not established eye contact with Lyran, as the ex-marshal was, still, scanning this greatly-sized hollow, speechlessly inspecting all the details of the place, secretly admiring all the work and effort that was put into its construction and design.

- This is it - replied Lyran, apparently not minding, yet following the same pattern of behaviour that Barnes have, seconds ago, just stated; scanning around, instead of looking at one another - It is prospering and growing since its creation, which was roughly a thousand years ago, maybe more - he kept a small pause, but it was clear that he was not one of those who loved to not talk or to not share interesting information - I admit, there were a few complications and problems through the lines of history, I would not deny that; I mean, at one point, some, specific books were almost banned, although, I only know this as the typical tale of our time by now, and… - for the past ten seconds, while the owl was talking, Barnes just simply rested his blue eyes upon the bird's face, patiently waiting for the closing-word of this endless flow of talk; when Lyran noticed, he, almost awkwardly, dropped his eyes from the ex-marshal's gaze, and was now staring at the carved-wood floor of the library.

- Do you usually add a trivial „note" to all of your sentences? - asked Chris with a seriousness that was clearly pretended, giving the talkative owl a friendly look, who, after taking a short moment of two seconds, raised his gaze up again, establishing eye contact with Barnes, reiterating the two's visual connection - I did not mean that seriously, just for you to know - backed out Markson, hoping that he did offended with his previous, of what he called, joke.

Lyran - ordinarily, not necessarily as a response to the above - sighed, and shook his head, bordering close to the suggestion that he was genuinely ashamed of himself; he made that strange chirring sound, which, now Barnes came to realise, was, believably, a type of emotional reaction, imaginably unique to these owls; only a theorization by Chris, but a fair supposition, if we think about it while we are at it.

- No, not really, but, uh… - he began, but his expected answer was short-lived; he walked closer to Markson, but only a minimal bit, as the owl still kept a respectable amount of distance, upholding the fundamental and mandatory rules of „personal space" - Valery told me your story, and she said that you are quite… - he rethought at least five sentences, unbelievably carefully, before the bird, finally settling on an adequate response, spoke again - I am trying to not offend, and still, I am having difficulties with choosing my words - he drifted off into reconsideration again, forcing Chris to begin his lengthy course of action where he would, sooner or later (usually the latter), lose his patience.

„Yeah, I can see that!", thought Markson, and, if he would have been physically able to, the ex-marshal would gladly have rolled his eyes; „If you keep up your speed, we might be done by tomorrow!", he added in his brain, minorly frustrated.

This Lyran was one of those whom Barnes would have described, in the most dumbed-down and common way, as a kid; nevertheless, this, by all means, was not meant towards the younger layer of civilisation, but was attempting to describe a person who was ambitious, enthusiastic - maybe even partially impassioned - and was not a challenge to excite; nevertheless, these people (or, in this given perspective, owls) were sometimes just, to simply put it, overly young.

On Lyran, Chris could see that he was just a kid; inexperienced, but bearing a great potential; nonetheless, this was the ex-marshal's neutral viewpoint. Personally, he was willing to avoid any further „get-to-knows", at least until he found something useful out from this very library.

- Just say that I do not fit in, and be done with it! - hurried Markson, exhaling heavily in this short process.

- Oh, no; that was not what I wanted to say at all! - defended Lyran, seemingly being on the brink of apologising - I was just… Ah, nevermind, forget about it - with this, the conversation was ceased by the owl.

„That is not going to be immensely difficult", thought Chris, however, a small feeling of guilt signaled from his stomach; now, even Barnes admitted that, if one thinks about it, one could clearly state, without any trace of doubt, that, with his previous thought, the ex-marshal crossed an imaginary line, and was, maybe, a bit too harsh on the owl.

Now, both birds (if we include Barnes) stood in silence: Lyran, once again, scanning the floor for something that was not there, and Markson, awaiting an action from the bird, staring at his temporary warden's face.

- So? - asked Chris from Lyran, lengthening his sentence to show its level of significance (which he, privately, considered to be rather important); to this, the owl snapped his head up, and looked at Barnes again, although he exhibited a lack of understanding by his facial motions.

Lyran had no idea what the ex-marshal was urging him about, thus, as an appropriate response, he asked back, hoping that he would receive a response with an increased degree of information.

- „So"? - he inquired towards Markson, patiently awaiting the arrival of a senseful response.

- How long are you planning to stand here? - questioned Chris, raising one eyelid higher than the other (since he figured out that his in this shape and form, he was able to accomplish such movements).

- Oh - came the response with a double-timed reaction - I… I did not knew that you did not wanted me to watch, I, uh… - Lyran kept stuttering with his words, and, in all of the meanwhile, Barnes maintained his facial gesture, and kept his right eye raised; shortly after, the owl ran out of words stumble on, then, in a quiet and modest manner, took his choice, which's content was detectable from the final, conversation-ending part of his speech - I will be over there - gestured the bird towards an empty corner, which contained an apparatus that was closely relatable to a desk - In case you would need me - subsequently after this, the bird nodded, then backed away into the section of the hollow that he just mentioned.

Well, at least, in a relative way of speaking.

Without regard to his previous sentence, Lyran opened his beak once again, howbeit, the words pronounced by him now, as a matter of fact, resembled advice that the ex-marshal could take use of.

- And, uh… if you look there… - gestured the bird with his wings towards the direction to which Chris was standing with his back towards; as a result of this, the ex-marshal turned only his head around (Barnes was able to use the advantages of certain situations, as his skills were well-fined when it came to adaptation; for example, the current moment), and saw an almost cutely tiny owl, perching over a pile of parchments that were the prime example of what Felias' hollow should have appeared like. Chris turned back to Lyran, who, upon visually acquiring the proof that the ex-marshal knew to whom he have pointed him to, resumed his half-done sentence - …That is Ania, she is the book matron; she will definitely know where to find whatever you are looking for. I dare add that she knows the library off her talon - then, the owl, finally, took a turn of a hundred and eighty degrees angle, and, in a calm and slow manner, walked towards the corner he had mentioned about a minute ago.

On the other hand, for a short while, Markson followed the bird with his eyes (which were now directly corresponding to the angle which his face was pointed towards), then, consequently to the clear sign of Lyran, lastly, taking his specified spot in the library, and not turning around to say something witty or trivial again, the ex-marshal swallowed (a foreign feeling yet again), and embarked on his ludicrously short journey to the - supposed - "book matron"; nevertheless, Chris would have been easily, what is more, effortlessly, able to identify a much more familiar and accepted word. This was, namely, the title, "librarian".

As he approached the small owl with a casually slow pace of walking, the bird raised her gaze; if the information given by Lyran was true (and, to be honest, why would it not have been?), then this nocturnal creature - or, to be called by her previously mentioned name, Ania - was, in all of her actuality, a female. She gave a look awfully similar of those owls who have passed him and his "temporal warden" on their way to this library, then, as if she have snapped out of this (as it lasted for an uncomfortable time of four seconds), the bird shook her head - although barely noticeably.

- Evening, uh... - she began unsurely. "Knows the library off her talon, huh?", thought Barnes, not yet convinced at all, "This should be good!" - Are you looking for a book, specifically? - now, this resembled the word "reliability" a bit more, minorly assuring Markson about the owl's proficiency.

- Yes, in fact... - paused Chris for a second or two; Felias gave him a note, and, by his telling, this piece of paper contained the titles of the volumes he was eager to finally read. Presently, the ex-marshal was leaning down to acquire this miniature sheet, as he, up to this moment, held it in his talons for all along, now not entirely sure if this was, now looking back at it, a reasonable idea. Before it could have been handed over, Barnes found it suitable to unfold the now almost decimated material, so it was plain and smooth enough to be readable.

First off, this was another sight to behold: Chris was holding one corner of the paper with his beak, and the opposing corner with two of his talons, holding it between two of his sharp claws; although the small owl - possibly - aimed to stay polite, the ex-marshal was assured that, if given the word or sign of "no offense taken", she would have bursted out laughing at him.

When Chris was done (rather belatedly, he took his time, yet this was not deliberate; who could have known that unfolding something with a beak and claws can take so long?), he lifted Felias' note in front of his own face, roughly about eye-level, waving it triumphantly for the librarian, or, more familiarly to these owls, "book-matron". She, upon taking the paper, already began to read the letters written on it, plus, all in the while, started to slowly balance it on the top of her mound of papers.

- I was given this... - he began after he handed the note over, however, Ania kept her eyes on the ex-marshal for the whole time; when she was done with the action of reading the mentioned item of interest, Barnes carried on with his talk - ...And it contains all the books I am looking for - he finished, hoping that, for all this time, Felias did not write something nonsensical on it.

Be that as it may, Markson now trusted the assumed fact that the owl (just for the record, the one who personally accused him of murder) was not attempting (at least, not anymore) to play a hoax on him. He was too far in now for that; well, he thought this, but did not knew that much.

Then again, he could not know this fact, purely from the sole reason that he could not possibly have known this fact; this was the easiest and most clearest explanation. No more, and no less could have been added or taken away from this.

- Is this for chaw work? - asked the female owl, her sentence forcing the (now) confused Barnes to put his head in an angle that suggested the opposite of understanding. Waving with her right wind as a sign of "nevermind", Ania continued - I am only just asking, because these all are... rather old tomes - then, she began to read out the titles to Markson; supposedly, this was to assist the muddled ex-marshal in comprehending of what he was, as a matter of fact, aiming to read; a sympathetic deed, yes, but, sadly, Chris had no idea or clue of what the book-matron was talking about. Yet, he hid his facial expressions well, and pretended understanding, and attempted to figure a few things out from the heard clues - The Others and Their Assumed History Before Our Time, by Strix Otulissa - here, Ania gave Barnes a meaningful gaze, and added a comment to it - Over a hundred years old - then, she cleared her throat, and proceeded along with her words - The List of Recorded Abnormalities of the Previous Years in the Southern-Kingdoms, compiled by Felias Braystorm - another lift of eyes from the bird - The one who has sent you.

"I noticed, thank you!", thought Chris with the lightest frustration possible; annoyed or not, he despised it when someone explained or mentioned something that was clearly and undoubtedly obvious.

- Lastly, we have... - she began with a sigh, then said the title of the book, painfully slowly; however, it was, with this emotional reaction, suggested that this tome was, for a yet unexplained reason, was, either a bit or a lot, more important than the two previous - The Studies of Anomalies in the Southern-Kingdoms, by Edegar Braystorm; not as old as the previous copy, but still rather aged: 30 years - interestingly enough, no further remarks were made by Ania at this point, and she continued to stare at the little piece of paper that she already have placed on the top of her mound of parchments.

- Let me guess - spoke Chris, catching the librarian's attention in an instant - That is this Felias guy's father? - shortly after this, Markson carried out a quick reconsideration; was it smart to use the word, "guy"? After all, he was not even sure if these owls used worked with such words, or if their vocabulary was this similar to Barnes', as a human's would have been.

"Nah, it should be alright!", told Chris to his own self privately, in thoughts, "After what I have experienced so far... their language cannot be much different!".

- Ah... sorry, it must be me, but, uh... - began Ania, leading to the ex-marshal to believe that, for another time, she was having problems with her job (in which, by the telling of Lyran, she was supposed to be so professional at); little did Markson knew about the reality of the situation, although it should have been fairly perceptible to him - What is a "guy"? - this was the source of the issue, and Barnes was now fully aware of this. Hoping to evade any further complications on this matter, he dismissed his previously pronounced word with a simple response.

- Let me put it differently - he attempted to turn his mistake (which was, on the grand scale, not entirely his fault) into a perceivable definition - I will try this again. So, this Felias owl; is he this "Edegar" owl's son or family relative? - the ex-marshal weighed this out as a cogitable communique towards the bird he was conversing with.

- Oh, I see what you mean now! - "I am glad that you do", thought Barnes as an answer, and he knew that pronouncing this would have been way more than offensive, thus, he only thought of it, and not said it out loud to be heard by everyone - Yes, Edegar Braystorm, may Glaux rest his soul, is the late father of Felias; but... - at this point, Ania leaned a minimal amount closer to Markson, and lowered her voice to the audible volume of a whisper - Do not tell anyone that I it was me who has told this to you, but... Oh, how should I say? - and with this, she ventured into the process of sentence-construction.

"A librarian who is a gossipmonger?", thought Barnes while the owl was having difficulties with the "figuring-out" of what to say, "The best of the best to acquire information from; my luck this is!", he added sarcastically, knowing from past experience that spread rumors and hearsay, for most of the time, could not be trusted (to shorten the story down, let us just state that Markson had a few... undesirable colleagues at the TSA; there were even some who have said... things about him that spread around the Administration like wildfire. Things that were utter and disputable lies, showing a totally incorrect and mentally invented fabrication of what Markson actually was like. In a version cut short, Chris was not fond of those who put their nose - or, to fit the current parameters, beaks - into others' business. For Ania, this was not a good start, and she had already earned a mistrust in the ex-marshal, a thing that could become dangerous, if one would consider the future).

By now, the librarian owl has successfully organised a sentence, that was, if rated by its content of information, in a conclusion, could have been counted as acceptable, or, at the least, usable.

- Felias and his father were... complicated together, to be put simply - said Ania, almost whispering at the moment; she really did not wanted anyone other than Barnes to receive this small pack of information - Edegar was always away, and Felias' mother died early, so... for most of the time, he was alone.

"This could explain his personality of a... well, let us not be rude just yet!", thought Markson; he was a person of tolerance, although only when he was required to; if someone came at him aggressively, be that physically or verbally, without a proper reason or background-motive, Chris was not going to be empathetic. Now that he suspected the sense that, for so far, was hiding behind Felias' actions, the ex-marshal was able to give him a minimal amount of sympathy; still, what that owl said crossed the line a few times, thus, Markson could not give full toleration towards the bird.

Barnes was so much into his thoughts that he has almost forgot about Ania, who, up to this exact point, was still talking to him, albeit the fact that the ex-marshal was not quite focusing on her anymore; realising this, Chris quickly undertook the action of joining back into the conversation, hiding his previous loss of focus perfectly well.

- ...Of course, my mother told me this, as I am not that old to have known Edegar myself - Markson arrived to the point of the sentence where the owl has already finished her line of thought, now looking down at the small piece of paper once again.

- Okay, thank you for the answer - said Chris, hoping that this would make Ania believe that he has actually listened for the most of the conversation - Now, uh... - he stuttered - Could you tell me where these books are located? - the sentence probably did not reached the librarian for a few seconds, as she turned her gaze upwards, towards Barnes, although the look itself was empty and blank; figuring that this was only the facial gesture the bird took on when she was thinking, Markson continued with silence, hoping that his prediction is correct.

- They actually are in a separate section, because they are classed as... an unreal field of "science", officially - to ensure that her statement was powerful enough (or, if it was, on a low level, at least somewhat convincing), the owl added a bit more to her saying, perhaps just to strengthen it even more - The Braystorms are brilliant minds, that is indisputable; the fields they regularly researched though? Those are hardly the same - she kept a tiny little pause in her speech, then, shortly after, carried on - That is the separate section - pointed the bird with her right talon, towards a space that was behind Markson, thus, in the current moment, he was unable to visually acquire it; when he turned his head fully around, he spotted that the imaginary line created by the indication of Ania's claw, ending in the far corner of this massive hollow - Right to the left of that owl there; the one you have arrived alongside with - hereby, the librarian ended her line of sentences, signaling her "farewell" towards Barnes, who, easily detecting and understanding this subtle motion, nodded, turned around, and began to walk (dejectedly) towards the precedently discussed section of the library.

Then again, Chris' current style of walking could have been questionable from a third person's viewpoint, because - as we all know by this point - he came this far to acquire the knowledge from those books; and yet, here he was, moving towards the potential sources of revelation with reluctance. However, if one would have observed more carefully, one would have noticed that Lyran was in the corner that Markson was pointed towards by Ania; in addition to this, she even mentioned this small fact at the end of her last sentence. If one would have concluded from this, one would facilely have understood the reason for the way-too-obviously noticeable signs of hesitation in the ex-marshal's walking style.

When he reached his not-so-faraway destination, Chris greeted his... still, officially only addressible as "temporal warden"; nevertheless, this approach did not consisted of anything verbally pronounced from Barnes' side: he only looked at Lyran in an expecting way, waiting for the owl to acquire the message from his type of look.

- Uh... Do you need me for something? - asked the bird awkwardly, truly not grasping the meaning of the ex-marshal's stare. As a response towards this, Markson glanced over the bird's head, inspecting a normally-sized (which, in this case, was relative, taking that he was an owl) board, which had letters on its surface; surprisingly enough, the letters were recognisable, plus, the word formed from them was, to the ex-marshal's hugest surprise, in English, spelling out the title, Braystorm-Science; literally a second later, Barnes lowered his head, so that he was facing Lyran once again.

It took the owl a short amount of time - roughly about the numerical value of five seconds - to get the idea that Chris was attempting to exhibit for him; he swiftly turned his head around, glanced upwards, and saw the label of the shelf (or, a shelf's close relative; this architecture still appeared to be quite... foreign to the ex-marshal); immediately, the bird gave out an audible sign of sudden realisation, quickly switched his eye-contact back to Markson: all implying that he, with a minor latency, had got it.

- Ah, I see! - this being the "audible sign" mentioned above - I will try and find another corner - he said, smiling while doing so, already starting to walk away with a needless haste from Chris.

The latter, now feeling a bit guilty for his roughly-shown request, turned his head towards Lyran, and, by raising his voice, shouted over to the owl who was, by now, barely visible, as he had almost crossed the entire area of the library.

- Hey, Lyran! - the Barn owl has span his head around with such a speed that Barnes was afraid that, if he carried on like this, the bird would break his neck on an unfortunate day - You could actually help me with something!

- Certainly! - answered the addressed person (if he could have been called this on paper), and arrived back in front of the ex-marshal with double the pace he has left with, which, taking that he has walked away in a real hurry, was rather amazing - What do you need help with? - inquired the owl, sounding both supportive and eager at the same time.

- Could you take off a few books for me? - not considering the fact that he, with this sentence spoken, appeared like an unable someone, Chris supported his request with a friendly gesture on his face - I am still unused to this whole situation, plus, I was never inside this library before; so, if you do not mind? - he did not listed his solicitation again, knowing that, since Lyran had his full-focus on him this time, saying what he needed for a second time would have been an unnecessary waste of breath, also, it could have caused otherwise avoidable tension between the ex-marshal and Lyran.

So here was Markson; a few hours ago - or a day ago, taking that his sense of time vanished after the crash of the plane - he was unwelcoming against all attempts of communication, and, even though he was about to cooperate, his original... questioner was gone for an uncertain time; he started out on the offense, and yet, he was put in a much better situation with a nice bit of work-along. Hopefully, if luck has placed its bets on Chris' side, the ex-marshal would actually find something useful. Something, that could explain what has occurred to him, and if there was any possible option to... reverse this thing.

However, before anything from his plans could be accomplished, Barnes found it profitable to give a little amount of assistance to Lyran, as the poor "kid" (by Markson's way of thinking) has almost dropped a quite thick book by badly judging its weight. Hoping that his wings or talons would be of any support, Chris walked up to him, and reached up for the heavy-looking tome that was held in mid-air by the flying Barn owl, barely able to hold onto the previously mentioned item as it was.

The ex-marshal had a long work ahead of him; if favor was on his side, he might just find valuable information. After all, all answers were hidden somewhere; and, most potentially, the answers Markson was seeking might just well be among the books.

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