Chapter 7 - Silfr
LITRATURE’S ARCHITECTURE AND ENGINEERING WAS NOT SOMETHING ARTEMIS HAS SEEN FOR A LONG TIME.
The entire building looked like a normal three-storey structure from the outside, which was fake because Artemis could’ve sworn that she and Emrys had at least climbed eight flights of stairs.. The hallway Artemis had trod that midnight—the same hallway she and Nikolai had ran through this morning—was not in its best form last night either, to Artemis’ wonder. When Emrys knocked on the floor with his foot, the hallway widened and revealed more rooms.
“The first floor is the most normal floor in this building,” Emrys said, leading Artemis through the hallways of the eight floor. Or the fourth floor, Artemis lost count. “We have a canteen there, the receiving area, a pavilion, and more doors that leads to more hallways. So we’re at the thirteenth floor, where Connor’s and Luca’s office are. Aaand we’re not allowed to roam around much this floor, so I’m just gonna show you the hallway that leads to their offices.”
“Connor is the chief, right? He must be really busy.” Artemis let out a low whistle at the white polished walls. When she squinted her eyes, she noticed that there are actual stories written on the walls.
“Busy, but he knows how to manage his time. Luca is the busiest one here and he has the biggest office space. Let me tell you, all of his files and everything in his office is wickedly organised. He’s like... the archives of archives.”
“T-That is amazing, I-I can’t even get my life organised.” The question popped again in Artemis’ mind: Why was Luca selling books in Sect. 4?
Emrys coughed out a little proud smile and started walking towards the stairs again. “The twelfth floor is just full of LIT’s files, documents, and records—cough, Luca’s, cough—so we’re going down to the eleventh floor.”
“I don’t mean to be rude, but why did we start from the top?”
“The fourth, third, and the second floor are full of books, I doubt you’ll even come with me if we went there first so I thought we could start with the important places, so when we’re done I could leave you in the company of dead trees and coffee and come back when Eleanore calls us for dinner.”
“Emrys I hope I am not rushing you but when you turn 17, can I marry you?”
“I don’t see a ring.”
“Oh for Shakespeare’s sake. Anyway, out of curiosity, LITRature is a magical building and you are people with magical pens, why don’t you have a lift?”
“These stairs are the only exercise these writers have. I’m in charge of the architecture, and I will definitely not allow a lift. Or an elevator, like what Aifric called it.”
“Right.” Artemis nodded up at the wooden steps of the stairs, then realised that it’s not a living thing.
“Eleventh floor, here we go.” Emrys first stopped in front of a glass door. Through the glass, Artemis could see Fraein planking on his table, staring at a piece of paper laid carefully on the carpeted floor.
“He calls that writing,” Emrys said.
“I wonder if that’s how he wrote my favourite books.”
“Which one is your favourite?”
“Fervid Fallacy, so far.”
“That book is the product of his bitterness and pain when Connor accidentally stepped on his cloak and Fraein legitimately thought Connor hated him. Well, Connor did hate him for a while because of his overreaction.”
Artemis quirked an eyebrow. “I thought that book was about capitalism and waking people up from the lies that society and the government had fed them?”
“Now that is the reason why Connor forgave Fraein for the overreaction. But really, the lie that you’ve read was, to translate in Fraein’s little flamboyant language: I have been living my life believing in the lie that Connor has loved me. He stepped on my cloak today and I know he will step down on me harder if I didn’t fight back. He hates me because I’m fabulous and my cape is fabulous... Like me.”
“That’s pretty... deeper, now that I think of it.”
“Don’t get fooled. Oh, and look over that glass door,” Emrys pointed at the door across Fraein’s office, “that’s Aifric’s office. There’s a staircase inside that room that leads to an armoury. We never use real weapons, we rely on strategy and the powers of our Pens, so only Aifric visits that place. Or writers who need references.”
“The pen is mightier than the sword, eh? Literally.”
“Meh, depends on the writer.”
“Are we talking about Nikolai Flume?”
“We don’t talk about Nikolai Flume unless you want him to appear.”
“Like a ghost?”
“A poltergeist.” Emrys cleared his throat. “Anyway, his room is at the end of the hallway. I don’t want to pay him a visit. I fear for my life.”
“I want to pay him a visit.”
“I want to return this silver bracelet.”
Emrys’ eyes widened. “N-No, actually, keep it.”
“I won’t keep this silver bracelet after what happened. And I won’t join Silfr.”
“Hey, listen, Artemis,” Emrys put his hand on Artemis’ shoulder and led her further into the hallway, “Nikolai gave you that silver bracelet for a reason, and even though he may be a jerk, keep it. You’ll change your mind eventually.”
“If I hit my head hard tonight, then. And I don’t like the sound of ‘he may be a jerk’, Emrys.”
“Did he hurt you?”
“It was... kind of the opposite.”
“Oh. Did you grow up in Sect. 9?”
Artemis stopped walking. “I... grew up in the World Outside.”
She expected Emrys to cast her a look of pity.
Emrys gave her a little cheer. “That’s amazing. Chase, Elbert, and Dana are some of the members who grew up in the World Outside too.”
Artemis brightened up. “Really?”
Emrys let out a little laugh and nodded, “Yeah! And they’re amazing too. Chase and Elbert are both in Kvistr, while Dana helps Eleanore around, since she’s only eight and she can’t write. I mean, not the literal write, but you get it, man.”
“Aww, she’s eight? That’s adorable!” Artemis prayed she didn’t sound sarcastic, because she really thought that it was adorable. Those are actual thoughts that didn’t come out out of spite. “I didn’t know LITRature accepts little kids?”
“LITRature accepts everyone. The three of them were the only survivors when one of the only remaining refugee villages in the World Outside was burned down to ashes.”
Artemis’ heart skipped a beat. “Burned... down to ashes...? A village...?”
“It’s not impossible, there are soldiers and tanks everywhere.”
“Yeah, I must be overthinking.”
“That’s not something you do alone. By the way, this floor is for the Gull Division. My office is this door here-” Emrys jerked his head at another glass door. “Like what I’ve said, I manage the architecture. If Fraein or Nikolai managed to destroy something. I have an assistant, he’s called Nine, and he’s that little guy there—oh, he’s sleeping. Give me a minute.”
Emrys got inside whilst Artemis waited outside. She could see papers everywhere inside, and she noticed a model of what she recognised as LITRature’s headquarters. Then her attention was caught by a note plastered on the wall: FRAEIN’S.
“Fraein’s?” Artemis knitted her brows together when Emrys got out.
Emrys shrugged and looked back. “He wanted a project done.”
Artemis flinched and groaned at the sudden boom of Nikolai’s annoying voice. She glanced at Emrys first before she turned to face Nikolai, who’s confidently walking towards them.
“Catch this.” Nikolai tossed her a dirty white pen with red crosses an inch away from the nib.
Artemis caught it with one hand and raised a brow. “What is it this time?”
“A healing twig.” Nikolai grabbed Emrys’ arm and using his silver pen’s nib, made a rather long cut along Emrys’ arm. Emrys screeched and yelped in pain and tried to hit Nikolai back, though he didn’t.
“What are you doing?!” Artemis gasped and shoved Nikolai away from Emrys.
“Use your pen, Artemis Thrace!” Nikolai grinned wolfishly and bit his lip excitedly.
Emrys, wincing and pressing his hand against his wound, just grimaced and made a small nod up at Artemis, like, please just do it.
“But I don’t know how to write!” Artemis panicked.
Nikolai snorted. “Don’t bloody lose your mind on a simple cut. Just simply write it, woman. What’s happened to all of your ideas and writing prompts whenever you yell at me?”
Emrys forced a smile. “I’ll be fine, Artemis, just try to write.”
“H-How do I write? Write on the air?” Artemis, her eyes wide, raised the pen up and looked at Nikolai.
Nikolai nodded, and looked comforting (for the first time). “On the air, anywhere, just be sure you get there.”
Artemis took a deep breath and wrote, with her shaking hand:
HEAL EMRYS’ WOUND.
There were no shining letters like Nikolai’s, but there was a faint, weak buzz and Artemis saw little dots of dim lights gathering around Emrys’ wound. Artemis’ jaw dropped when she saw it, but the wound didn’t heal.
“Did it work?” Artemis asked, her spine getting tingly.
Emrys crinkled his nose. “Well, the pain is gone, but—oh sweet Elizabeth Barrett it stings! Argh, it hurts a lot than before!”
Artemis and Nikolai froze on their spots and watched Emrys curl up on the floor and scream in pain, before they both yelled, “Eleanore! We’ll call Eleanore!”
Fraein and Aifric came rushing to the scene.
“I heard screaming,” Fraein said, laughing when he saw Emrys on the floor. “It was not the kind of scream I needed as a reference, but it was fun hearing it come from Emrys.”
“Did Nikolai do it?” Aifric knelt down beside Emrys, a worried look on her face.
“Artemis did it!” Nikolai blurted out.
“Mr. Freshness did the cut!” Artemis pointed at Nikolai.
“Whoever did it, please just call Eleanore,” Emrys whimpered. “I want to chop my arm off.”
“Don’t do that,” Artemis said flatly.
Eleanore came. Eleanore looked breathless and her hair was a mess. “I was in the aviary, gracious goodness!” she cried. “What happened?”
“Emrys had a cut,” Nikolai said, pursing his lips.
“Oh I wonder how he got that, Nikolai.” Eleanore gave Nikolai a motherly look and got down to see Emrys’ arm.
“Chop it off, Eleanore, it burns!” Emrys screeched.
“Stay still, sweetheart, I have my pen—where is my pen-”
Nikolai snatched the pen from Artemis’ hand and gave it to Eleanore, saying, “Here, you dropped this earlier.”
“Nikolai!” Eleanore frowned, but chose to help Emrys first. She quickly scribbled healing words, and this time, Artemis saw the lights that appear when pens are being used. Emrys’ wound instantly healed.
“Did you make Artemis use Eleanore’s pen?” Aifric asked.
“That is a twig,” Nikolai pointed out. “It’s not like a Gull Pen that could only have one master or else it’ll explode in the skies!”
“Gull Pens explode?!” Artemis choked.
“They don’t,” Aifric replied sternly. “But they know the writer’s intention, and presumably—no, possibly—Nikolai stole Eleanore’s pen to make Artemis write!”
“That!” Nikolai raised his voice, then lowered it after getting a look from Eleanore, “… Is not entirely true, but-”
“It’s my fault,” Artemis lied. “Nikolai probably wanted me to write so he was looking for a way that’ll... No, what am I thinking? It’s Nikolai’s fault. Entirely. I didn’t want to use the bomb pen, so he thought I could be a healer. He’s not an asshole, he’s just stupid.”
“Excuse me I am also an asshole in some circumstances, thank you.”
“And that, too.”
Eleanore stood and faced Nikolai, whilst Aifric helped Emrys get on his feet. “Nikolai, honey,” Eleanore started calmly, “I know how much you wanted Artemis to join Silfr, but do not steal or harm other people to get on your way.”
“I’m sorry, Eleanore.” Nikolai lowered his head. “I just want to teach her how to write.”
“If you really, really want to make Artemis write, let her join the Trial and let her decide for her own. You can’t force your own decisions on other people, honey.”
“And stop following that girl, for Crowne’s sake!” Aifric bawled. “She can take care of herself, she’s from the World Outside!”
“What does that mean?” Artemis asked.
“Wait, I thought Luca is this office’s bitch, not you, Aifric?” Fraein interjected.
“Wow, now I’m getting the insults, Fraein?”
“Aifric, calm down,” Nikolai said. “I’m not following her around, I’m just-”
“Shut up!” Aifric raised her pen up. Nikolai raised both of his hands on instinct.
“Children, you do not yell at each other,” Eleanore hushed. “Aifric put your pen down.”
Artemis stared at them. “It’s my fault, isn’t it?” she whispered to Emrys.
Emrys shook his head. “It’s Nikolai’s, no questions.”
Artemis nodded, “Yup, it’s Nikolai’s.”
“Wanna escape to the fourth floor?”
“Emrys,” Fraein interrupted with a smirk on his face. “A word with you, please.”
“Aifric, wait!” Nikolai snapped, making Artemis, Fraein, and Emrys turn their heads to his direction. They saw Aifric running to the staircase.
Nikolai ran after her, but Connor came and stopped him.
“I heard everything,” Connor said. He towered at Nikolai. Artemis thought he looked scary.
“Connor, it’s something I-” Nikolai fainted again and Connor caught him.
Eleanore and the others ran to them, and Connor said, “He just fell asleep.”
“I’m sorry,” Artemis muttered. She just felt like she needed to.
“And I have bad news.” Connor’s expression turned grave. “The king and the queen of Crowne will come to witness LITRature’s Trial.”