I wrote this short story last month for the Furious Fiction writing competition at the Australian Writers’ Centre. It didn’t place, but that’s okay. It was my first attempt at entering any sort of competition so that’s all good. Besides, it means I can share it with you. If you’d like to check out the winning and recommended stories from October’s Furious Fiction click on the hyperlink. There are some fab stories there for you to read.
The Citadel had fallen.
Pungent smoke choked the sky as flames clawed through rooftops. Walls weakened by the heat crumbled onto the streets below.
The Great Library of Intorbau was the only intact building in the dying city. The Librarian ushered the last survivors into the library’s silent halls.
“Close the doors,” she said to two tired-looking soldiers, their faces equally covered in soot and blood.
The solid walnut doors closed silently, cutting off the triumphant screams of the invaders. At the rear of the library sat the Princess Royal, her spirit exhausted, but not broken. The Librarian walked across to the young woman and gazed down at the small baby she held in her arms.
“We will claw our way back,” the Princess said. “My Uncle will not win for long.”
“Of course, Princess,” the Librarian said.
A mechanical clicking sound caught the attention of the survivors — a light tapping noise against the stained-glass dome high above.
“Everybody. Down,” shouted one of the Princesses Guards as he knocked the Princess and the Librarian to the marble floor.
The glass dome imploded, raining shards of glass and death onto the terrorised people below.
“This need go no further, Niece.”
The Princess hissed as her Uncle’s magic-enhanced voice echoed over the city.
“End this. Hand over the Letters of Office, and you and your child can retire to the country in peace.”
“Over his dead body,” the Princess muttered.
The Princess handed the sleeping baby to the Librarian and pushed a stray lock of hair out of her face.
“Colonel,” she said, calling over the leader of the Palace Guard. “The child is our only hope. Go with the Librarian. Leave the city. Take the baby with you.”
“You are the Library now,” the Princess said to the protesting Librarian. She placed her fingers on either side of the Librarian’s temples. “Stay beside my daughter, raise and educate her in the history of our people.”
A bolt of energy sizzled through the Librarian’s brain, and she sniffed as she smelt the acrid odour of burnt toast. Knowledge flooded her mind, causing her knees to tremble. The moment passed as soon as it arrived, leaving the Librarian amazed at the growing vitality she felt with each breath.
“There’s no more time,” the Princess said. “My Uncle approaches.”
The Princess kissed the sleeping baby. In the baby’s blanket, she tucked a packet containing the Letters of Office declaring the child the one true Queen of Intorbau. With a final push, she indicated the Librarian and the Colonel were to get moving.
The Librarian led the Colonel to the back of the stacks. With short movements, she typed a code into a panel behind a bookcase. The wall slid open. The lights inside, beginning to operate automatically, filled the room with flickering light.
With a final glance at the only home she’d ever known, the Librarian swallowed and beckoned the Colonel to follow her through the secret tunnels and out of Intorbau.