Dran had seen quite a few things these past few months. He had seen his first crowd. He had seen his first mountain, his first non-sorcerer. The first time he had seen someone younger than him. The first time he had seen poverty. None of those had made much of an impression on him.
This was not his first library. But it knocked him off his feet.
Stacks of books, floor to ceiling. Covering eight floors in the Anitax spire. Dran thought back to his father's library. Those lonely bookshelves had felt unlimited. After all his of years of voracious reading, Dran had never finished it. But this... a lifetime wouldn't be enough to make a dent in this collection.
Dran was there to find materials relating to Ochekol'kan. It occurred to him that he was completely unsuited to the task. He had no idea how the library was organized, no idea how to find the books. But he hadn't objected when Taerin assigned him the task. Because Taerin had assigned it with some sort of confident forcefulness. And that same tone of voice made it clear that Taerin expected Dran to do a very good job. Dran made a mental note to practice his order-giving if he ever found himself in a leadership position. In the meantime, he had work to do.
"Do you know where I could find books about Ochekol'kan," Dran asked the first person he saw.
The sorcerer turned around, his green robes twirling. "Excuse me?" He looked to be maybe half a decade older than Dran. He didn't seems especially tall, and had the complexion of one of the old Etoran families. Dran wondered if that
"I am new here. Do you know where I could find books about Ochekol'kan?"
"I do not. I am a student of potions, not superstition."
Dran saw no reason to continue their conversation. It would only lead to the two of them antagonizing each other further.
The next person he ran across was a redhead, about his age. "Do you happen to know your way around this place."
"Not really," the redhead laughed. "You might want to ask one of the arc's downstairs."
"Short for Archivist. Are you new here?"
"My name is Othin," he said, extending his hand.
"Nice to meet you, Dran." Othin had a firm handshake. "If you have any other questions, just ask. Do you think you'll be able to find the arc desk?"
Dran's mind raced. He didn't want to admit weakness. To admit that he didn't know what the arc desk looked like, or whether 'downstairs' meant down one flight or four. But he had a job to do, and Othin could help. "Sure, if it wouldn't be too much trouble."
Othin looked down at his books. "An excuse not to study magic theory? That's the opposite of trouble."
So they walked together. "What do you plan on studying," Othin asked.
"Potions." Dran wasn't even sure if that was a lie. Did he planning on studying at the University after Koteph's defeat? Or would he return to his home in the Black Tower? Regardless, Dran knew better than to tell the whole truth. Later, Othin would find out why Dran was really here, and feel betrayed. So be it.
Othin looked at Dran, as if he expected Dran to say something. "What do you study," Dran asked, completing what he could only assume was the second part off the ritual.
"Honestly, I've gone back and forth a dozen times between charms and enchantments."
"Where do you stand now?" Dran was actually curious.
"Probably charms. They're just more logical, you know."
"And, frankly, more useful."
Othin laughed. "I'll admit useful has never been much of a concern for me. Magic for magic's sake has always been fine with me. My sister has always been the practical one." There was a pause. "Do you have any siblings," Othin asked.
"No," Dran said. He decided to change the subject before it reached more painful territory. "How long have you been at the University?"
"Most of my life actually. My father works here."
"What does he do?"
"Umm... he's the Archmage."
Interesting. Dran could see why Othin hadn't wanted to mention that earlier. And now the conversation had reached an awkward moment for both of them. But Dran was still curious. "What is that like... if you don't mind my asking."
"Good and bad. I'll be the first to admit that people treat me differently, and most treat me better. On the other hand... how do you measure up to that?"
Dran wondered about that. Phorius had been one of the strongest sorcerers in the world. But Dran had never worried about measuring up. The entire family had just assumed that it was a matter of time before Dran eclipsed his father to become far greater still. It was as if Dran had been balanced over a precipice, and just only just thought to look down.
His father may have been the greatest magical warrior of his time. He had certainly won more fights than anyone else. The Caesorium line was the most famous family of sorcerer-kings in history. Actually, probably the most famous family of any sort in history. They claimed descent from the gods, and nobody was quite willing to argue. And on his mother's side, his family had ruled the Black Tower for several generations, and had famous mages on two continents. And Dran just cavalierly assumed he was the pinnacle of this line?
Dran steadied himself. He had become a mage before most people open their first book of enchantments. He was on track to be a match for any of his relatives. And what did it matter if they were better than him? They were dead, nobody was ever going ask him to duel his great-grandfather.
"That would be the desk," Othin said. "See you around."