Chapter 11 - The Great Library

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Back in the material world, they marched the dusty road without speaking, Michael walking ahead, muttering to himself and Jaylina several steps behind, careful not to interrupt his brooding.

Jaylina was angry at herself. She thought over and over again about the astral plane and what happened, or more precisely, what had not happened. She replayed the information she'd collected in her head a thousand times, and still could not explain why she didn't see a path to the sword. It was right there! How could there be no way to reach it?

Jaylina felt a wave of humiliation. For the first time in her life, someone had come to her for her help specifically because of her talent and on her first try, she proved to be useless.

I hate myself, she thought. Maybe it would have been better had I been brave enough to take the last step.

Suddenly, she halted mid-stride and took a took a deep breath, letting it out slowly.

That's exactly how the shadow found me the first time, she recalled. Whatever mistakes she made; she would not make that one again.

On they walked for hours until the sun began to waver in the sky behind them and her feet began to hurt. Before Jaylina worked up the courage to ask if they were going to rest, they topped a small ridge and she gasped at the sight of a vast walled city behind a veil of smoky haze from the chimneys of countless structures of all shape and sizes that denoted civilization, towers rising from its buttressed corners, and a huge port that connected a wide river from which inland traders brought goods by shallow-hulled cargo boats to a broad bay full of ocean-going vessels that lay south and opened up to the sea.

Port Angel.

"What are we doing here," she blurted, her awe of the conurbation before her momentarily causing her to forget Michael's ire.

"You said you needed more information," he replied nonchalantly. "I think I may know a place."

Jaylina forgot how tired she was as they set off down the hill into the bustling city.

Along busy early evening streets vendors hawked their wares, shouting in thick regional accents: tinners, shoemakers, carpenters, fishmongers bellowing deals to move the last of their catches of the day, an old man with a beard that curved to a point just above his chin offering delicious smelling spiced sweetmeats.

Famished, Jaylina used her last few coins she'd kept from her old life (that's how she'd thought of it now, and she'd left without packing so much as a supper basket or walking pants) to purchase bits of salted grilled fish on sticks and wrapped in paper.

She offered one to Michael who politely declined.

Jaylina was overwhelmed by the sights, sounds and smells of the neighborhoods they passed through as they moved deeper towards the center of the city.

Here's a place I could call home, she thought. The culture, the diversity, the sheer energy of Port Angel called to her in a way she'd never before experienced.

At last they came to a large plaza surrounded by ancient and official looking buildings. A fountain percolated in the center of the open square.

On one side stood a large vaulted Corinthian structure at the top of many rows of smooth stone steps. From the ground rose bright marble columns like long teeth supporting a great blue dome with golden inlays of stars and mountains in fantastic patterns that caught the setting sun. Jaylina had never seen such architecture, certainly not in her little wharf village where even the town hall was constructed almost entirely of wood. The building's lines gently curved, quite pleasing to the eye and gave the entire place the semblance of being larger than it was.

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