Solomon was less than enthusiastic as he stomped his way from his lessons of the day to the library in his district. The Civil Authority had ordained that all persons who lived and worked in the city had to read the history of how they came to find themselves there: The Templar Chronicles. He had known that he would have to read it, everyone did! However, Solomon put it off for as long as he could. He just did not care about the Templar; they were long gone. Their ways and ideals died with them on the flight north. So why should he care?
Oh sure, he had heard the stories about what the knights had done. They came up often enough in the history books and pop culture books and films about them. However, The Templar Chronicles were something different from the larger than life figures the Templar had become in the literature that featured them since The Fall. The Chronicles told the tale of an ancient order of knights; how they had defended humanity for generations before they disappeared from the world, but moreover, it was meant to teach everyone about the sacrifices of the individuals large and small in protecting them, their way of life, and their faith. However, perhaps most interestingly, was that The Templar Chronicles told the story of Gawain Manes. As far as Solomon was concerned, he was an under-represented figure in most stories about the Templar.
While he was not thrilled about the hours he would waste, the main reason that he was upset was because he could not read the book at home where he could be most comfortable. So, here he was, walking to the district library through the miles and miles of tunnels, ladders, and crowded walkways.
Of course, his situation was not the norm. Most people had a copy of the text in their family’s database, or, if they were even more fortunate, a paper copy. Solomon’s family was not so well off as all that. There was no way they could afford the tremendous cost of a paper book, and they could not even afford a digital interface with the city net, which contained most of the texts and works which the Civil Authority considered essential to make good citizens. Thus, instead of being able to read the book at home in his small but comfortable room, he was on his way to the library; a place he avoided whenever he had a choice.
After almost an hour of walking, climbing, and struggling against the rush-hour crowds, he stood outside the library. It was not a particularly easy place to find, and he had almost walked past it before realizing the danger. The façade of the building as it sat off the main walkway was simple and unadorned; the double doors were the familiar clay work that existed throughout most of the city. The warm glow of its external electric lights burned into his eyes as he stood outside of it deciding if he wanted to put off the assignment for another week. He could probably manage it.
Yet, he had walked all the way here. “Damn it”. He was not about to turn around and walk back without at least a little rest. So, he allowed himself, he would spend only one hour there today. Afterwards, he could even spend some of his precious pocket money for a can of pop from one of the many vendors he had passed on the way here. Sugar was rather precious these days, and he did not splurge on it often. With this, a sufficient motivator, he pushed open the door and walked inside.
He looked around in surprise. The library was actually quite large. The space spanned almost three hundred meters back from the doors and the corridor outside, and another fifty to either side. Solomon glanced up; the ceiling was comfortable three meters over his head. All this combined to make him feel as if he had suddenly stepped into the main courtyard of the mountain city.
The room was… odd. Space was something of a commodity in the city, and he did not think that most people would have approved of the tremendous waste when so many were living in three-family, economy-class dwellings. He almost got angry at it all before he saw the foundation stone which featured prominently just inside the door. It read, “Year Three.” This simple fact made him stop in surprise. His people had founded the city of Erebus almost two hundred years ago. If this library’s stone was accurate, it had been here since the earliest days of the city’s struggle to survive. It certainly explained the size of the library, though not why anyone spent so much effort to construct it in those chaotic early years.
A woman was sitting at the desk that was only about two meters from the door. She looked up when the door opened, and flashed him a warm and inviting smile. When Solomon did not come further into the room, she got up and walked directly to him. As she approached, Solomon noticed that she was a little shorter than he, which was a whopping 167 centimeters. She held out her hand, “Welcome to the First District’s library, can I help you find something today?”
Solomon nodded and shook her hand, “I think you can. Would you mind helping me find a copy of The Templar Chronicles? I need to read it for class.”
Her smile deepened, “Of course. That is one of my favorites, and did you mean the total combined Chronicles, or just the first book?”
The question caught Solomon off-guard, “You mean there is more than one?”
She laughed. It was a gentle and unassuming sound, “There are indeed, but I trust this is the last year of your apprenticeship?” He nodded and she went on, “Then the book you are looking for is just the first of The Templar Chronicles, it is called Freedom’s Price. Please, come this way.”
They walked to the right of the circulation desk and towards a large number of tables and chairs in a brightly lit corner of the room closest to the door. She gestured at the tables expansively, “This is the reading area. You can choose where you would like to sit. I will go and get the book for you. While I am up, would you care for anything to drink or eat before I get the volume? This will be your last chance until you have finished for the day.”
Solomon was momentarily confused. He knew that paper was precious and that libraries, librarians, and Archivists defended actual, physical books zealously. He faltered, “Umm, I don’t have any money for anything, so probably not. Are you going to give me a paper book?”
She smiled at him again, “Why, of course. I find the chance to hold the actual book is wonderful experience, and one that you might only get infrequently.”
Solomon frowned. He could not decide if the woman was making fun of the obvious poverty expressed in his clothing and his presence in the library or if she was just trying to share one of her interests with him. He shook his head, “Oh, sure. Thanks. I would like that.”
She nodded, “Just wait right here. I should not be gone that long.” With that, she whisked off into the stacks of books that were located at the very rear of the Library’s space. Solomon looked around. Adjacent to the stacks were massive server blocks that probably stored the combined digital archives of the entire district as well as the local base for the civil net. Across from the reading area were a large number of net-access terminals for those who preferred to work in the quiet of the library than in the noise of the crowded tunnels, factories, and homes. There were few people there, and he was sure that the area was almost never full. The people, who were there, looked like university students. Those precious few who were able to gain entrance into the university often worked ceaselessly as everyone considered it one of the greatest privileges that existed in Erebus.
He spared a moment to imagine what his life would be as if he were able to attend the university. The librarian interrupted his fantasizing as she returned. She set the book in front of him, her smile still wide and genuine, “Well here it is. Just let me know when you are done for the day and I will take care of it.”
Solomon stared in numb shock for a second. The book was thick, wide, and the paper it represented was worth more than his family made in a year, probably more. He looked up at the smiling librarian and nodded his understanding. She nodded back and returned to her post at the desk, watching over the comings and goings of the district library.
Intimidated by the task at hand, Solomon briefly considered immediately returning the book and going home. Instead, he sighed and opened the heavy bound volume. Gingerly, doing his best not to damage the expensive paper, he flipped to the first page of the book. There was a note to the reader from the author. It read:
[Archivist and historian Maneesh Al Jalani in year five after the founding of our illustrious city, Erebus, wrote the following account from the collected reports that survived the fires that consumed the Archives of Granada, carried out of the city by Templar Commander Estevo Ioklos and his family during the Night of Shattered Swords. While many of the documents from the Archives throughout Avalon were lost in the subsequent struggles of the Fall, there remains many electronic and some paper copies, of these reports of the early days of the life of the notorious Gawain Manes.
The following account is a third person narrative reconstruction of how he came to be close to the Army of Avalon while that kingdom endured. It is composed largely from the reports, statistics, and material inventories from Outpost 11 of the Army of Avalon as they were uploaded to the central military mainframe on a regular basis. In addition to these essential documents, great attention has been given to the collected correspondence, writings, and personal diaries of Templar Knight Jericho who perhaps knew Gawain the most intimately. Some of the information also comes from the brief mentions and snippets that exist in the surviving documents from the soldiers of Outpost 11 on the Granada border. In particular, the writings of Captain James Grom, whose stalwart defense of Granada’s southern border must never be forgotten, were of significant value.
Archivist Al Jalani would like to apologize to those readers who sought a purely historical analysis of these events, and encourages readers to follow up their reading of this text by turning their attention to the more scholarly writings about this period as Archivist Benecio de las Angeles who has covered the fullness of these events in greater academic detail.
However, Archivist Al Jalani, through this narrative, hopes to allow readers to feel what it meant for the people who lived these tumultuous years to be where they were. Especially since many of the documents, in particular the Army reports to the Templar High Command and the Avalon military are, by their custom, dispassionate. The tendency has been to mistake this tale as one of statistics, numbers of dead and years of service, rather than acknowledging the richness of this story. So while this is a historical fiction, it is strongly based in the research mentioned above, and should be considered an informed reconstruction of the events as they transpired, with only moderate artistic license taken with the conversations and private thoughts of the individuals. Many of these issues are mitigated through the fact that Templar Jericho wrote extensively on his observations of Gawain and those around him. Furthermore, the Archives still have some of the surviving footage from the digital feeds from Outpost 11 that inform us of some of the conversations these persons had, the ways they looked, and their mannerisms.
Archivist Al Jalani wishes it to be known that the greatest care has been taken in the writing of this text, and hopes the reader enjoys what he has created for them.]
Solomon smiled after he read these words. He was glad that this was not going to be just a dry retelling of military tactics, casualties, number of shots fired, and whatnot that he had come to associate with the histories of the Templar he had read thus far as part of his schooling. He was still not sure if he was going to like the book, but at least he was going to be able to read something other than a straight report. He had never really cared for such things.
With a little more hope in his heart for the hours he was to spend with this book, he flipped to the first page and read of the night in which the great Gawain Manes first encountered the soldiers of Avalon as he fled from their most dogged enemies.