Gift: The Rebellion

Rory Stone has a Gift, and the whole world wants to see.

Rory Stone felt that his life was perfectly normal, the days spent with his best friend Towlen even managed to make it vaguely bearable, even interesting, but once he finds he's got a Gift, his world starts tumbling around his shoulders. Tea with the Queen, Shapeshifters missing, children sleeping and never waking up... and Rory is in the middle.


6. Chapter Five- The Angel and the Gargoyle

    “This isn’t going to work,” groaned Rory, only a night had passed and since the previous evening he had completely lost his nerve. Towlen however, held her ground.

    “Stop acting so hopeless! We both know that you can do it.”

    “Yes, I could learn Association, but in six days? I’m not hopeless, this whole project is hopeless.”

    Towlen crossed her arms in the personification of a full stop, keeping her mouth firmly closed; she was there to help, whatever Rory said.

    They were both sat in the back of Mr Hurst’s car, who had hesitantly agreed to drive them to the library after Towlen had begged and pleaded. It was less than a week before the Ceremony and this seemed to be their last resort. Soon, the world would be tuning in to watch Rory and in vain, he tried not to think about it. The very thought of so many people watching brought on a wave of nausea that he was constantly battling to suppress.

    “Can’t you just teach me some basic spells?” he implored, “I could just make them huge, like the light. It might not be very… original but it will still be spectacular by their reckoning. What about a whirlwind? I could make a giant one above everyone’s heads!”

    “And let it suck up the audience with it?”

    “A fireball?”

    “And burn off your face? No!”

    “How about a-”

    “Rory, no! This is the only way that you could possibly impress Her and- and everyone else.” Rory shuddered, by ‘Her’ she meant the Queen of England.

    Rory sulked and tucked his chin into the hollow of his collarbone. That, he knew was not true. Anyone would be impressed by his magic. Towlen had been acting irate and agitated since the morning, thought Rory pretended that he didn’t know why. The Shapeshifters had not yet returned.

    “I’m going into town, what time do you want me to pick you up?” Mr Hurst asked as they arrived in front of the enormous library after a forty-five minute drive, parked directly below the steps.

    “Can you give us a couple of hours?” asked Towlen sweetly.

    “Alright, two hours and no longer, I want you two standing outside waiting for me, is that clear?”

    “Clear,” they chorused as they unbuckled and jumped out of the car. It was only until Mr Hurst was out of sight that they turned to face the great library, and for a long while they stood, mesmerized by the brilliant architecture.

    Stone pillars that far exceeded one hundred feet, gargoyles and angels mounted on peaks and hundreds, if not thousands of slates with detailed mosaics or meticulous patterns carved into them mounted upon the walls. At the highest peak, an angel and a gargoyle danced in explicit harmony upon the cascades of glittering snow.

    After a time in a trance like state, Towlen shook herself of the pervading cold.

    “We’re wasting time,” she said, before grabbing the sleeve of a reluctant Rory and tugging him up the mountainous steps and through the giant, heavy doors.

    The interior was similarly fascinating. The design flawless, ancient mosaics strew the walls with a subtle artistic influence. Immense carvings depicting key moments throughout history dominated the ceiling with their obscene brilliance and the furniture was made from a deep brown polished wood that complemented any kind of artistry placed upon it.

    Right at the very top, directly above them so that they had to crane their necks to see, was Rory’s favourite of the many beautifications, a tiny engraving of the feet of the angel and the gargoyle dancing above. Rory had to strain to find it, but as always, a warm and homely feeling spread through him when did, encasing his chilly joints and shivering bones, heating him from head to toe. Both him and Towlen removed their various woolly layers and wrapped them around their waists.

   They strode past the front desk, and into the labyrinth of books. Though the Library had a low, hazy light, it was easy to follow Towlen as she picked her way between each aisle by her crimson knit bobble hat, rising and dipping like an apple bobbing in water as she strolled through. The musky scent of old books permeated the air and Rory breathed it in deeply. He loved the smell of books, even if he didn’t particularly enjoy reading them.

    They passed aisle after aisle. Art, Geography, History, Mathematics… The list seemed endless. Finally, they came to the Magic section.

    They had travelled so far that if Rory was with any other person he would have opted to turn back before they got lost, but Towlen knew the building like the back of her hand. Her mother had taken her often as a child, and since she left her father had taken her place until the economic climate required him to focus more on his job.

    The small room dedicated to magic was lined with books more colourful and beautiful than any other found around the library. On the walls were enchanting murals that illustrated the tales of beautiful girls with long, golden hair being courted by handsome knights in shining armour. Silver carriages were not led by horses, but unicorns and animals of all sorts crowded the scenes. It was hard to tell, but Rory believed that they were singing. The must be singing, for who could not sing in such a perfect scene as that?

    In the centre of the room were long velvety sofas and large cushy chairs on hearth rugs where one could relax and delve far into the endless realm of magic.

    Towlen was now paying more attention to the signs above the shelves. Sub-sections included Gesticulation, Mind Control, Pairing, Shapeshifters and Wording.  They paused in the Shapeshifters section, a little surprised to find Aaran Liam, a friend from school, sitting cross-legged on the carpet with books flooding his knees and his head resting somewhat resignedly upon his hand as he scanned the pages of a black leather-bound volume that rested on his lap.

    “Aaran?” Towlen asked. Aaran looked up furtively, having to brush his glossy black hair away from his watery blue eyes in order to see them. Once they got a proper look at him, both Rory and Towlen saw that his eyes were red-rimmed and shining with the threat of tears, his cheeks and eyelids swollen and puffy. He looked as if he had been crying for the best part of an hour.

    “Oh, hi guys,” he sniffed, barely registering their presence before releasing the veil of hair and turning back to his book. Towlen elbowed Rory in the ribs and nudged him forward. Rory had known Aaran for years, though they had never really become acquainted. He reluctantly took a seat beside him.

    “Hey mate, what’s up?” he kept his voice low; aware that they were in a library, though it was almost deserted.

    “Not much,” he said, a whisper behind the book that he was studying, now with a furrowed brow.

    “Seriously, what’s wrong?” Aaran stared at him with a troubled look and for a moment, Rory thought that he was going to tell him, but his face hardened abruptly.

    “I said, nothing,” he said, Rory recoiled at the sharp tone; Aaran was on the defensive as he rarely cried. Rory hefted himself to his feet and when he met Towlen, he murmured in her ear.

    “Your turn.”

    Towlen sighed, but as she approached him, she halted in her stride and her lips formed a little pink ‘O’ as realisation struck her. She looked around and peered at some of the book titles as if checking for some sort of confirmation before she turned and strode towards Aaran again, her gait noticeably more confident. She sat next to him and wrapped her arms around her knees.

    “Aaran?” she whispered, in such a low voice that Rory had to take a few steps closer to her. As far as he was aware, Aaran didn’t reply.

    “Aaran… Your Shapeshifter.” Aaran choked as if a lump had formed in his throat.

    “Has- has he gone missing?” she asked. Fat tears welled in Aaran’s eyes and slid down his cheeks like dew on a blade of grass. He nodded weakly.

    “How long, Aaran? How long has he been gone?”

    “Four days,” he whispered, and gasped as if oxygen seemed to elude him. He lifted his knees to his chin and buried his face in them as the book slid off his lap. Rory noted that it was called The Why’s and How’s of Shapeshifters. Towlen wrapped a comforting arm around him.

    “It’s all my fault,” he moaned into his trousers, “I haven’t really paid much attention to him and- he left and-” he gasped again as if fighting for air.

    “It’s not your fault, Leonora’s gone to, and loads of others. You must have heard about it at school?” Aaran looked up at her, blinking rapidly as the tears began to recede.

    “Been ill- Really?”

    “Yeah, Sylvan too,” Rory piped up, joining them.

    “What… Both of them?” he asked. Rory and Towlen nodded solemnly in response and for the first time, it struck Rory that Sylvan was missing and he had no idea –nor had he made any effort to discover- where he had gone. He struggled not to let the sudden spasms of guilt that rolled in his stomach show on his face.

    “Well, what are we going to do?” asked Aaran. Towlen looked puzzled, “I mean, we have to do something, right?”

    “Well, sure,” Towlen said, slowly, “but –uh- what, exactly?”

    “I don’t know-” Aaran said, and the conversation lapsed in to quiet thought. “That’s why I’ve being doing research, I just don’t know.”

    “I’ll tell you what,” said Towlen, as Aaran looked to be once again on the verge of tears, “once this whole ceremony thing is over and done with, me and Rory will help, yeah?” Aaran beamed, and seemed almost lost for words.

    “Well, yeah! Yeah- that’d be, yes please!”

    “Great,” Towlen smiled. “Rory and I have to go and get some books on Association, but we’ll chat at school?” Aaran was already gathering up his books.

    “Absolutely, thanks,” he grinned, hurriedly wiping his eyes with the back of his hands.

    “No problem,” Towlen and Rory said, before helping Aaran gather up the last of his books to take out, and once again perusing the shelves.

    “Oh-” Aaran called from behind them, “good luck!” Rory thanked him before turning back around, his stomach roiling.

    “Do you really think this will work?” Rory asked.

    “Why not? I mean, Association-”

    “Not Association, this mission you’ve signed us up for.”

    “I don’t see why not, Aaran’s smart, really smart, why shouldn’t his research get us somewhere? Anyway I- I have to know where she is, Rory.”

    They walked in silence for a while.

    “I know,” he said, “I know.”

    Rory allowed Towlen to slip in front of him again as she led the way to the Association section. When they arrived, Rory began to study the rows upon rows of books, intimidatingly high. To their right was the restricted section, sealed off to all those under eighteen as it held books imbued with Paton magic that had to be handled with extreme care. Towlen veered to the left and started pulling out book after book until the pile in her hands was too high for her to both walk steadily and be able to see.

    “Is it safe for me to put them down?” she called, Rory had been so engrossed in the scores of information that he was gleaning from the books that he was completely oblivious to Towlen’s predicament.

    “To put what- Oh!” he hurried towards her as the books wobbled precariously. “Yes, yes! Put them down!” he fretted, some of them looked a little too frail to survive the fall.

    Towlen bent her knees until she was close enough to the floor to lower the books to the ground. After she had prised her fingers from beneath the hefty pile, she stretched them until they clicked.

    “That’s disgusting,” Rory moaned.

    “Just because you don’t do it,” she retorted playfully, before setting herself down. After she had stacked the books into several smaller piles, she picked one up from the top of the nearest one and began to read intently.

    “You’re not seriously going to read every one of those are you?” he asked uncertainly.

    “I’ll sift through them as much as I can for an hour, which will give us another half an hour, I can use that to show you where we’ll be practising. The books I don’t read I can just borrow if I want.”


    “I said, the books I don’t read-“

    “No! Not that, what do you mean, where I can practise? We can’t leave the library and there and any arenas around for miles anyway. Even then, they wouldn’t be free at the last minute and I swear I’m not walking to Tiloric.” Towlen watched him with a serenely amused expression.

    “Rory, I never said that we would have to leave the library.” Rory contemplated this.

    “You want me to practise in the library?” he asked, wondering why on earth Towlen would expect him practise clumsily in one of her favourite places. She just nodded and put her book up to her face.

    “Something like that,” she said, and Rory thought he heard her trying to stifle a giggle. He considered going off on one, before realising that something was up.

    “I’ll find out quicker if I shut up, wont I?” said Rory, who was fully acquainted with Towlen’s methods. “Where’re you going?” he called, as Towlen grinned and stood up, brushing herself of dust and carrying a single book.

    “Unfortunately, I’m really impatient, so I’m going to show you now,” she grabbed the hem of his sleeve and tugged him around a right hand corner. If they had been leaving they would have carried on forwards.

    “OK, where are we going?” Rory glanced around, the signage was gradually becoming less and less clear as Towlen guided him through the far reaches of the library. They saw a shady looking man with mussed sandy hair studying a book in the Attack and Assault section, but otherwise, they passed no-one.

    Just as Rory was beginning to feel bored with the endlessly samey scene, they came across a dead end. With no carvings, engravings, paintings or mosaics to ornament it, it was plainest area of the building, and he didn’t even know what section they were in.

    “Alright, what is it?” he asked, was this perhaps a special area where practising magic wasn’t forbidden? Maybe the wall was devoid of any artistry so that it wouldn’t matter so much if it was blasted to bits. Rory scrutinised it, not a scuff nor a scratch, so that couldn’t be it.

    “Can’t you see it?” Towlen asked. Rory started, there was nothing to see!

    “See what?” She turned to face him, a broad grin on her face.

    “Really? I saw it the first time mum took me here.”  Rory didn’t comment, Towlen rarely talked of her mother and was very sensitive on the subject. He continued to gaze at the wall, his eyes bore into every minute detail, every knot, every grain…

    “There,” he said, pointing to a small rectangle where the grain had shifted slightly, and on its right, a tiny notch in the wall. “Is that it?” he asked, not sarcastically but in true curiosity.

    “I’d tell you to cover your eyes, but I know you’ll peek through your fingers.”

    She slid her little finger into the notch and grabbed something that Rory couldn’t see, she wiggled her finger around a bit until the slightly off-grain rectangle of wood shot out of the wall and bounced off of Rory’s chest. Towlen deftly snatched it out of the air with her free hand before stashing it into a hidden pocket in her skirt.

    Inside was a shining marble handle.

    It wasn’t a wall, it was a door.

    “What’s behind it?” Rory whispered, awed at the discovery.

    “Why don’t you find out?” she asked, unable to supress her smile from stretching, she took a step back from the door.

    Rory took the handle firmly in his hand and twisted it. The door was surprisingly easy to move and came away smoothly with not even a creak of the hinges.

    A half globe arena; it must have been fifty metres across all of the way around. The marble white floor shone in the brilliant light that emanated from magical spheres that spun against the ceiling, pulsating and beaming with a glow that filled the arena as they roamed.

    All around were dozens of rows of black onyx benches that encircled the floor, making the actual practising area seem insignificant against the towering seating. In the very centre, somehow woven into the formation of the marble was a golden ring where a Spellcaster would stand and perform, and in a curving formation, hidden in receding blocks under the benches were several lime green medicinal orbs that lingered, waiting to come to the aid of any living animal, human or otherwise.

    Above Rory was an ornate sort of structure the likes of which he had never seen before. Made from what looked like shining coils of gold and silver stood four pillars, each standing on the highest benches, equidistant from each other. Curving round the gleaming ceiling until just before they met in the middle, they formed a flat circle at the very top of the arena. Within that circle was a clear sheet of crystal that, remarkably, didn’t reflect even the brightest of the magical lights. Rory imagined that it was used so that onlookers could stand upon it and view the magic from above.

    From the ring that the precious metal made, they split of to form hundreds of sparkling threads of gold and silver that wound up and through each other to create a beautiful sort of barrier to protect people from falling off.

    At the very back of the arena, the benches rose to form a staircase and the dense black of the onyx gradually faded into the same crystal that made the balcony, like black paint faded to white, allowing a person to make his way up, and if he was especially late, continue to watch the performance even as he climbed.

    On the very top of the ceiling was something so wonderfully unexpected that it rendered Rory speechless. A large circular section of stained glass window that distorted slightly to the shape of the curved ceiling, showed the Angel and the Gargoyle, His Angel and Gargoyle, dancing. Leaving footprints on the snow that drifted onto them in thick layers from the heavens outside.

    Silver stars twinkled knowingly behind the serene opposites on a deep purple canvas, with lighter portions illuminated by a crescent moon. No magic existed in the picture, and this was what caused Rory to respect it. That the artist had resisted the lure of a background to work with and left the glory of what were essentially chunks of assorted glass up to just the Angel, the Gargoyle and the elements. The window projected a mellow rainbow of colour that drifted across the room of its own accord and as Rory and Towlen turned to speak to one another, they saw it gliding over their faces.

    “Wow… this is… Wow.”

    “I know, isn’t it amazing?”

    “And much more besides,” he snorted involuntarily, the word amazing just wasn’t… grand enough for this. He gazed around, absorbing every delicate feature, wondering at the sheer size. “How does it fit? Surely the building- I mean, I’ve seen it from the outside. It’s just not this huge!”

    “It is. It is this big, all of the buildings beyond this library, think about it, have you ever been into any of them?”

    “No, they’re flats and- Oh!”

    “Yeah, dozens of fake building fronts especially designed to keep the arena concealed.” Rory glanced at the door behind him which had swung shut noiselessly.

    “Are we actually allowed in here?” he asked.

    “Sure, it’s completely open to the public, but when it was built the librarians decided that they didn’t want people swarming their halls for anything other than books, so they hid it. A fair few people still know about its existence, but probably no more than fifty, and most of them are, well… elderly, so it’s rarely used nowadays. Dad told me that decades ago they used to hold secret performances and competitions in here, but that was when hundreds knew about it. Can you imagine?” she asked, spreading her arms wide.

    “I can,” he said, and imagined the groups of people huddled it quiet excitement on the benches, garbed in exquisite frocks and suits as they waited for the magic to begin. He thought of rich and powerful men casually adjusting their bow ties and top hats as they viewed from the spectating circle. He imagined a boy, a teenager standing in the middle and the crowd hushing their friends into silence as he began.

    He shifted imperceptibly towards the performance ring as he fell back into reality. Regaining his composure, he asked, “how come it hasn’t leaked yet?”

    “You mean its existence? I don’t know, apparently it used to be the talk of the higher social circles, but knowledge of it just petered away through the generations, I guess. Either that or humans became selfish enough to want to keep something like this all to themselves.” Her lips paled slightly and tightened as though she’d said something wrong.

    “You say humans as if it doesn’t include you,” Rory laughed.

    “Well I showed you, didn’t I? So the human races general selfishness doesn’t apply to me,” she retorted, and smirked as Rory struggled to find an appropriate comeback. Laughing, she skipped to the centre of the vast performance area and lay down in the ring. She rested the book on her stomach and Rory watched as it rose and fell along with her calm breathing as he lay beside her. They looked above in silent wonder, through the crystal viewing circle, and to the stained glass window.

    “Shall we dance?” asked Towlen, Rory stiffened as his spine went rigid. He was terrible at dancing.

    “I- I suppose.”

    “Bagsy being the angel,” she whispered, Rory shrugged awkwardly on the stone floor.

    “I don’t mind, I like the gargoyle.” For a while there was more silence, the sort of silence that could only be comfortable if you were with your best friend.

    And comfortable it was.

    Soon though, the inevitable happened, Towlen swiftly got to her feet and grasped Rory’s hands, helping him to his. At her friendly touch, most of the shyness drained out of Rory.

    Then, they did something that he wouldn’t be caught dead doing in public. They danced. They took each other by the hands and spun around the arena. One second Rory would be swirling Towlen by the hand the way they did on Strictly Come Dancing, and the next they would be doing the geekiest of hand jives, laughing like fools to the imaginary music.

    Soon enough, the dancing stopped as they ran out of tunes for the orchestra in their heads to play; they rested on the benches and tried to catch their breath.

    “So-” Rory spread his arms wide to the expanse of the arena. “Do I get to start practising in here?” Towlen tapped her chin thoughtfully, to answer him that, she needed the book which was still in the performance ring. It seemed so far away and she was still panting from the dancing.

    “Sure, when you go and get me that book.” Quick as a flash, Rory sprang off the bench and ran towards the ring, grabbed the book and sprinted back, eager to get going. Breathing hard, he handed over the beige, leather bound book.

    “Can we- practise- now- please?” He rested his hands on his knees to steady his breath. Towlen paused as she flicked through the book entitled Advanced Association for Beginners, checking that it was all useful and relevant information. She appeared satisfied when she handed it back to him

     “There’s a- catch- isn’t there?” he wheezed dejectedly as he slumped on the bench next to Towlen and accepted the book.

    “Not much, all you’ve got to do is read it,” she shrugged and fought a smile at his miserable expression. Reading was her favourite pastime and the knowledge that some people just didn’t like it always surprised her, like Rory for instance.

    “Read, more?

    “We are in a library, what did you think we’d be doing? I’m not going to do all of the work for you!” Rory suppressed the urge to press his palms to his temples, he’d had his fill of reading over the past few days, and this book was twice as large as any that he’d ever read.

    “The whole thing?” he asked, looking at thickness of the book, about two inches. For Towlen, this was light reading.

    “Yes, the whole thing! When you’re done we can come back and practise, it shouldn’t take more than a couple of days if you start now.”

    “And what’s to stop me from coming here by myself?” He scowled as Towlen laughed at the possibility of him trying to find his way to the secret arena.

    “Really? I’m not sure you’d ever find your way out!” she said, and Rory groaned at the grisly hours ahead. He didn’t struggle with reading, but found it an extremely tiresome task. He couldn’t quite understand why Towlen loved it so much, but supposed that she was probably a lot more imaginative than he. Whereas she could create images, scenes, people and so on with her mind, Rory preferred to have the aid of a television screen.

    “C’mon, let’s get back to the library, dad’ll be here in half an hour,” she said, glancing at her acid green watch.

    “Can’t I read in here?”

    “And what am I supposed to do while you’re reading? Pick at my nails? No thanks, I want to go and find a book of my own.”

    “What kind of book?” Rory asked, interested to know the kind of things that she read.

    “Right now, anything but magic,” she said, and Rory realised that she was probably fed up with it, and felt guilty at having stolen some of her limelight. After all, she had gotten her marks first.

    “Can I at least go on the balcony before we leave?” he pleaded, but Towlen was having none of it.

    “You can when you’ve finished the book.” She winked and smirked at his anguished face before turning on her heels and sauntering towards the door. Rory caught up with her fairly quickly, book in hand. Towlen turned the handle and pulled open the large, light door and the two walked through, the door closing without so much of a click of the lock. She slipped the wall piece out of her jacket pocket and slotted it carefully back where it belonged.

    “I haven’t been here in so long.” A whisper, the words barely brushed her lips, but Rory heard it clearly enough.

    “It’s-” He searched for a word, but came up empty. Nothing seemed quite… good enough.



    Rory thought that Towlen might have been blinking back tears as she turned and walked briskly away from the hidden arena. Rory followed, constantly turning back to see when he would stop being able to find the notch and see the distortion of the grain as he got farther away. Now, it stuck out like a sore thumb, contrary to when he had been blind to it when he had been standing so close.

    Towlen, on the other hand, did not look back once. She took Rory through the maze of books to the fiction section where she browsed various genres. Rory sat on a padded chair to start on the book.

    Even though he adored the library itself, the reading that he had been ordered to do had already begun to seem tedious after just a few minutes, and his glazed eyes simply strayed across the page, not absorbing a word. He had barely got past checking if it was a first edition –a habit that had started when Towlen had once told him years ago that given the right book, first editions could be worth a lot of money, this book was not a first edition- when Towlen sunk into the chair beside him.

    In her hands she held an enormous volume, it was wrapped in ruby red fabric with the title embellished in gold, a picture of a man smoking a pipe printed on the front and the very edges of each page dyed a deep scarlet. Towlen flicked through a couple of pages until she came to the chapter title and began to read.

    “What are you reading?” Rory asked curiously

    “Sherlock Holmes.”

    “I can’t believe a story could be that long.” Towlen sighed exasperatedly.

    “It’s not all one story, it’s the complete works.”

    “How many stories are there in it?”

    “I don’t know, dozens probably.”

    “…What’s it about?”

    “It’s Sherlock!” She threw her arms up. “It’s like, the only fictional book that doesn’t have any magic in it, it’s set in some sort of alternate reality.” She searched his eyes for some sign of comprehension, but evidently found none. “A detective, you know, ‘Elementary, my dear Watson,’” she put on a posh British accent and acted as though there was a pipe between her lips. Rory’s brow furrowed.

    “What does that mean?” Towlen sunk deeper into the cushions of her chair, annoyed as she became at anyone’s lack of literary knowledge.

    “Just read your own book, you can read this one once you’ve finished if you really want to know what it’s about.” Rory flicked a page over and released a puff of air through his teeth.

    “You have to actually read it, you know,” she stated, her eyes fixed on Sherlock.

    “I am reading it!” he exclaimed defensively.

    “No, you’re not,” she reached over and turned the book upside down in his hands before settling back down, not reading but waiting patiently for his reaction with a smirk hidden by the blood red pages.

    Rory heaved another long sigh but otherwise kept his words in his mouth and his eyes on his book, actually reading this time. Towlen relaxed and allowed herself to fall deep in to the world of late nineteenth century fiction until-

    “We’re late!” Towlen stretched and turned to face him, feeling as if she had just woken up from a much needed sleep. Rory held his wrist in front of her face as her eyes struggled to adjust and keep track of the moving hands. She snapped her book shut.

    “Follow me, bring your book.” Towlen jumped from her chair and ran quickly and lithely, skipping from aisle to aisle. Rory rose and ran too, but quickly dropped several metres behind. They passed through the Shapeshifters section again but there was not a trace of Aaran ever having been there, Towlen paused briefly and slid a book out of the Pairing section.

    “It’d be cool to learn this,” she said, and she was running again. Towlen didn’t halt her sprint again until she came to the front desk and waited four impatient seconds as Rory caught up.

    He emerged from the Art section tired out and red in the face, but he duly handed over Advanced Association for Beginners so Towlen could take it out. She fumbled for her purse before extricating her library card from within its depths.

    “These three please,” she asked the plump lady at the desk, handing over the books and the card.

    “Association, aren’t you a bit young for that sort of thing?” she asked, her short, tightly curled hair bouncing about her round face. A bright orange cardigan was stark against a velvety black dress patterned with light grey floral designs. She seemed to be quite a friendly woman, but Rory could tell that Towlen was becoming annoyed.

    “Well, yes- technically, but here-” She wrenched Rory to her side by his collar, “-Is Rory, that gifted kid who’s been all over the news, and he needs to learn it so-.” The library lady peered over her glasses in a very Mrs Cortrellesque way, her eyes scanned Rory’s face and she jumped abruptly.

    “Of course, of course. Yes, yes. No worries, no worries,” she mumbled hurriedly as she scanned the books. Her glasses wobbled haphazardly on the tip of her stubby nose. Without another word, she handed them to Towlen.

    “Thank you!” Towlen shouted as she ran to the doors with Rory on her heels. She heaved open the gigantic doors and sleet pelted their faces as they took the steps at top speed towards the waiting car.

    Without having had coats on in their brief period in the freezing weather, they were both shivering with cold when they climbed into warm car.

    “Hey kids,” said Mr Hurst, “how was-  why haven’t you got your coats on?” he looked at them through the rear-view mirror as he eased the car forward, “what were you thinking? You must be freezing!” he fretted. Rory and Towlen nodded as they attempted to unknot the tangle of coats and jumpers around their waists with numb fingers and shaking hands.

    “Just a b-bit,” Towlen muttered through convulsing jaws. Finally, they both managed to release they’re over-garments and hastily pulled them on, revelling in their extra layers.

    “So, how did you do?” Mr Hurst asked.

    “Great! I found Rory a book that has everything he needs to know in it and… I showed him the arena.” Rory saw her father’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise. He felt he knew why, but didn’t question it.

    “Really? How’d you like it Rory?” he asked.

    “It was amazing! It was just… amazing!” Rory’s words failed him once again as memories of the arena came flooding back, he relaxed into his seat as the heating kicked in.

    “Isn’t it just? Plus, I really do love that,” he replied, jerking his head back in the direction of the library.

    “Love what?” Towlen asked, twisting in her seat to get a better view, but Rory already knew, and he loved it too. Towlen watched as they faded into the distance behind a curtain of sleet.

    “The Angel and the Gargoyle.”


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