“Who are you?”
“I’m Voret, son of Idra,” Baeldrin lied. “And you are…”
Baeldrin shuffled in his seat. Before him, across a dusty wooden desk, sat a withered figure, beaten down by time, bent over by age. His skeletal hands lay resting on the desktop, their bulging veins transporting blue blood past arthritic fingers and on into the sleeves of his dark brown cloak. His bald head protruded forward and hung slightly to one side, bestowing an inquisitive property to his person; but his pale green eyes exuded a condescending and oppressive intellect obtained only by traveling the long and bittersweet road of experience.
“As I see,” said Baeldrin. “But what’s your name?”
A moment lapsed before the visitor began again. “I’ve come to ask about ephemeral revelations.”
“And what is an ephemeral revelation?” said the old man.
“I was told you knew.”
“That’s of no consequence.”
“Perhaps not,” said the librarian, grinning, his laughter sounding more like a wheeze. The man’s bony head oscillated back and forth, slightly, uncontrollably. His lips drew up, revealing a near-toothless mouth, then settled back down. “You already know what the thing is. Everyone does. But only a scholarly man has the capacity to question it.” He gave Baeldrin a queer, disconcerting look before continuing. “An ephemeral revelation is ironic, you see? Greater than an epiphany, it encompasses your thoughts, emotions, and actions. A split moment when they all agree. It’s a bolt of inspiration, cognition, enthusiasm, and genius. But it’s profound! As soon as it comes to you…why, it’s gone. Gone, I tell you, and the average man returns to his meaningless task and his mundane existence with thunderous confusion and dejection reverberating in his mind.”
The librarian slowly retracted one unsteady hand, opened the topmost desk drawer, and pulled from it a long, narrow pipe. He stuck the tip to his dry lips. A flame touched the bowl, and the smell of spent tobacco was displaced by the soothing aroma of new-burning leaf. His head steadied as the small room filled with smoke. Baeldrin waited patiently until the elder began again:
“The wise man, however, pathetically clings to it, searches for it, pretends he understands it, and attempts to compose or act upon it—whatever it may be.” He leaned back in his chair, musing, but then grimaced, returning to his original position. “And this afterthought is the measure of man.”
The smoke hung dank and motionless from the ceiling, and the shadows in the room shifted as the sun’s rays fell to earth unobstructed. The clouds outside had broken. The flat bars on the room’s solitary window arrayed the bright light in a checkered pattern across the opposite wall.
“What if one could harness these revelations? Call upon them at will?” the visitor questioned. His countenance displayed not the slightest emotion.
“What? Ridiculous! Haven’t you been listening?” A scowl came across the librarian’s face. “No one even knows what they are…”
“The explanation you gave seems good enough.”
“Just words, like all these.” The old man’s finger swung around, indicating the books that engulfed every square inch of solid wall. Most appeared as if they would disintegrate upon touch: a thick layer of dust was bedded on their jackets. “Besides, I gave you a definition—the best one that I could—not an explanation. Explanations are particular.”
“You’re truly wise,” said the visitor, beginning to rise from his seat as if he were now fully answered and the brief discussion had reached its end.
“If you really believe that, then heed my advice,” said the librarian. “Forget these occurrences and return to the mundane. Searching, groping, and obsessing over them will leave you trapped in the dark confines of your mind. Objectivity will strip the wonder from your life and empty your soul. The variegated world out there will become monochromic to you. Gray as your cloak and miserable as a storm cloud.”
Baeldrin snorted at that, shaking his head slightly from side to side. And with the motion came a sudden change in his expression: a mocking sneer to replace the stone face he’d worn into the room along with the false name. “A wonder, then, that you’ve managed to endure so long.” Looming over the desk, he moved a hand into the folds of his cloak, eyes gleaming with an unmistakable sinister intent.
The librarian stared at the man before him. “So,” he spoke after a moment’s pause. “My time’s come at last…”
Baeldrin circled the desk and crouched beside the elder. Pulling his dagger free, he held it loosely downward with forearm resting on knee. “Yes. The time has come.”
“And the ephemeral revelations?” the librarian asked, staring across the desk at the empty chair.
“The conversation served its purpose. I know what you’re hiding here, old man. Where are they?"
The librarian slowly turned his head towards Baeldrin, and—with it framed in the incandescent window—his green eyes became black bulbs. Trembling, he spoke with contempt: “You already know.”
“Indeed,” said Baeldrin as he thrust the dagger hard into his victim’s body just under the elder’s rib cage. A sharp grunt and short, low moan escaped the librarian’s lips. Then it was done. Straight to the heart.
Removing his bloody weapon with equal force, Baeldrin folded the corpse over on the desk and wiped the dagger across its back. His free hand gripped purposefully about the librarian’s neck, found what it sought, and yanked loose his prize. The broken cord was threaded through a fur-lined leather pouch. He pinched this between thumb and forefinger, felt two small lumps inside, smiled, and closed his hand around it. Then, returning the blade to his cloak and pulling up his hood to hide his face, he left the room.
The streets were bustling with people. Baeldrin faded into the crowd.