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Riis entered the library like a thief, stepping quietly so as not to disturb the brothers who treated the books that filled the shelves as reverently as a battle brother might his bolter. His palms, which were as dry as the desert in the face of an enemy assault, now sweated freely.

Brother Ayrel looked up from his text as Riis coughed quietly, “Ah, Brother Riis, the Master is expecting you.” The librarian’s face was calm and composed. Riis always lost when Ayrel joined a game of Tarocci, as he simply couldn’t read him.

Taking Ayrel’s lack of expression and the dropping of his eyes back to the book as dismissal, Riis walked into the inner sanctum of the Library. His immediate impression on entering was one of age, extreme age. It took a moment to realize that it was the smell. The books smelled older than time. Aurelius, the Master of the Library stood silently, a large tome held gently in one giant hand. The other stood poised at the top corner of a page then carefully turned it.

Riis set his pack down as lightly as he could, but loaded as it was with gear it clanked and clattered against the tiled floor. Aurelius turned slowly, closing the book with both hands, “Ah, brother, is it time already?”

“Soon enough Master.” The pits under Aurelius’ eyes were as dark as night, and his face and scalp were uncharacteristically ill shaven, stubble sprouting around the sockets in Aurelius’ skull. "You look tired Master, I can return later.”

“No brother, there will be time enough for rest on our voyage. For now I must complete my preparations. Your prisoner has given me much to think about.”

“Has she given you any trouble?”

“Nothing brother Vitus hasn’t been able to handle.” Aurelius looked to Riis’ bulging pack; “It would appear that you are prepared?”

“Everything a boy needs for a trip to the big city.” Riis tensed and watched Aurelius’ response carefully.

“Grenades, ammunition, demo charges? I suppose so, if he were going to take it by storm.”

Riis laughed, and then his face fell as he failed to see even the hint of a reaction to his joke on Aurelius’ face.

The librarian just shook his head, “I’m sorry brother, but you will not win the bet today, though I must confess it was an admirable attempt.”

Riis shook his head, “I doubt anyone will ever take the pool Master, if you are so well centered when fatigued.”

“My dispassion long ago grew to be a habit rather an exercise. If I am not mistaken in what I have heard, you too have profited from the lessons.”

Riis nodded, “the Emperor’s peace never departs me in battle. It is chilling though.”

Aurelius placed a hand on the Sergeant’s shoulder, “Brother, it is easier to hate your enemy, the fire it brings is comforting. But it makes you blind, and vulnerable to the powers of Chaos, to whom your hate is like a fine wine.”

Riis could only nod.

Aurelius placed the book in his hand on the shelf. “That will have to do for now. Come brother, ready or not, Blodsburg awaits us.”

Korvus 20:43, 9 February 2008 (UTC) Nicholas Cioran

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