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Ellen Dodge Severson

Hederick, The Theocrat

Prologue

Astinus, leader of the Order of Aesthetics, surveyed the three apprentice scribes before him. The historian's face, as usual, wore the expression of a man taken unwillingly from his beloved work for something annoyingly trivial.

The three scribes, a middle-aged woman and two younger men, shifted from foot to foot beneath his gaze and darted cau shy;tious glances at each other. Each was sure the other two pos shy;sessed extraordinary training and expertise. Each was sure that it was his or her mere presence in the Great Library ofPalanthas that had brought the dissatisfied gleam to Astinus's eyes. They all were convinced that their own appointments as apprentices to the premier historian on Krynn would soon be found to be a mistake. All that work, all those years of preparation and study, would be found inadequate. They were unworthy. Each steeled for disappointment, afraid of being sent home in humiliation to

become a store clerk or street vendor.

In truth, Astinus was not annoyed with the apprentices but merely anxious to be back at work, writing down the history of Krynn as it occurred. Even as he stood here assessing the guarded expressions of these three, details of fact were going unrecorded in the scrolls of the Great Library.

It was difficult to catch up once one was behind, as Astinus knew only too well; it was almost better to skip what one had missed in one's absence and go on to pen whatever was happen shy;ing at the moment. Unlike the other scribes, who worked in shifts, Astinus had never been known to sleep or to step away from his work for more than a few minutes. There were some among his helpers who whispered that Astinus was no mortal, for hadn't his name been found upon scrolls dating back thou shy;sands of years? Unless, they speculated, every chief historian's name, since the beginning of time, had been Astinus.

Actually, Astinus was well-pleased with this crop of appren shy;tices. These three, however they quailed before him now, had come on the highest recommendations of Astinus's far-flung advisers. They needed only seasoning, he'd been told, before they could take their places among Astinus's dozens of assistants in the Order of Aesthetics.

What was needed was a task that would test their ability to cooperate as well as to chronicle history, Astinus thought as the three suffered silently before him. It must be something, of course, that the historian could check for accuracy against his own knowledge of events as they unfolded. He narrowed his eyes and nodded as he surveyed the trio. 'Hederick,' he murmured. 'That's it.' The scribes exchanged more glances, each wondering which of the others was named Hederick.

'Sir?' the middle-aged woman finally ventured. She had the pale ashen complexion common among those who spent their lives prowling through the dimly lit corridors of libraries. She was of medium height and average build and wore her brown hair gathered with a simple length of blue yarn at the nape of her

neck. She wore the same type of sleeveless, togalike outfit that the other two wore-indeed, that Astinus himself wore. 'Sir,' she said again hesitantly, 'is there something we…?'

The remaining two apprentices lost no time interrupting the woman's query. In this competition for a coveted position in the Great Library ofPalanthas, none wanted to be left at the start shy;ing line. 'You have a task for us, master?' broke in the younger of the two men, a tall, red-haired youth with creamy skin, copi shy;ous freckles, and blue eyes.

'We stand waiting to serve you,' interjected the other man. He had eyes as black as his curly hair and skin the color of cin shy;namon, marking a sharp contrast to the youth beside him.

Suddenly, all three apprentices were speaking at once.

A new frown descended over Astinus's already stern features, and the three apprentices faltered in their chatter. 'You are delaying me,' Astinus declared in irritation. 'Give me your names, quickly, that I may sort you out and assign you tasks. And be brisk about it.'

'Marya,' replied the woman.

'Olven,' the dark-haired man said proudly.

'Eban,' the redheaded youth answered last.

'Fine,' Astinus said, noting their names for inclusion in his history of the Great Library. 'Your task, then, is this: to chroni shy;cle the doings of a man named Hederick, recently named High Theocrat of Solace. I believe the scheming of this man will some shy;day have great import in Krynn.' His penetrating stare raked the three aspiring historians. 'First you will research Hederick's past and set it out. You, Eban, will take charge of that.' The youth stood up straighter and cast a triumphant look toward the other two.

Astinus went on, 'All of you are students enough to grasp that without knowing a man or woman's past, it is impossible to understand that person's present.'

'Oh, yes,' said Eban.

'Certainly,' Marya chimed.

'Without a doubt,' Olven added.

'You two'-Astinus thrust his chin at Marya and Olven- 'will concentrate on recording the present exploits of High Theocrat Hederick.' He pointed to a wooden desk in the corner of the library. 'One of you-and you, too, Eban, when you com shy;plete your research-will be seated at that desk at all times, day or night. This spot must never be empty.'

Three pairs of eyes widened, but the historian continued speaking regardless of their surprise. 'History occurs in times of darkness as well as at noon, as you all know. Even now, events are sweeping on unrecorded as you dally here.'

Eban gasped and swept up a scrap of parchment and a quill pen from a counter. He scurried between two stacks of books and was gone. Astinus marked the red-haired youth's industry. Surely the background material would be ready soon at that pace, he thought with satisfaction.

Astinus made his way to the door of the Great Library. 'I leave it to you to decide how you will divide the day,' he said over his shoulder to Marya and Olven. 'Whoever is not record shy;ing currently transpiring events should help Eban with his research, for that must go first in your written account, of course. Now I must return to my tasks.'

'Ah… sir?' Olven said quickly. 'A question? Quickly?'

Astinus halted, his hand on the doorjamb.

Olven cleared his throat and looked embarrassed. 'How will we know what's happening now, so that we may record it?' the man asked.

'After all, it hasn't been written down anywhere yet,' Marya added helpfully. 'And it appears that you want us to stay here. In the library, I mean.'

Astinus, expressionless, gazed at the two for a long, silent moment, then the briefest of smiles crossed the historian's face.

'Sit at the desk,' the historian said. 'You will see, soon enough. If you are meant to work here.' Then he was gone.

Marya looked at Olven, who gazed back at her. They both swiveled about to thoughtfully survey the padded chair drawn up before the desk.

'It looks ordinary enough,' Marya said in a small voice. Just a chair.

Olven nodded. 'Magic, do you think?' he whispered 'Has Astinus ensorceled us without our knowledge?'

Marya shrugged, but swallowed twice before going on Maybe. You go first.'

Olven bit his lips, took a deep breath, and slid into the chair.

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