Some people looked at books as an escape from the world that they lived in. Within old, dusty tomes existed thousands of other worlds and universes that one could hide within, providing a solace for their tired and stressing minds.
One lady in particular, Beatrice Birbenbeak, felt that books weren’t just an escape, but actual portals to another realm. She truly believed that in her quest for knowledge, she might actually be able to open the doors to another dimension, with nothing more than the wisdom that she wished to obtain.
Her quest for the same was the bane of the existence of the librarian at the Waterfowl Public Library, who was often kept in the building well past closing hours in order to abide the avian’s quest for knowledge, but after years of dealing with the frustration of working extra hours for Beatrice, that same librarian had finally come up with a plot to put an end to her frustrating, unpaid hours.
Low light radiated from a desk lamp as Beatrice Birbenbeak sat by herself at one of the large desks in the atrium of the library. Her dexterous wingtips turned through pages of her tome of choice for the evening, and her eyes of muted violet sparkled with interest as she almost literally absorbed the words on the page in front of her.
“Another late night of reading, I see?” asked the librarian, as their assistant ran rapidly around the otherwise silent building, picking up the messes and sorting the books, a task that the librarian claimed to pioneer, and always blamed on Beatrice.
“This book is just so fascinating, I can’t put it down!” Beatrice admitted, unable to keep a curious smile from spreading across the dark, gray features of her beak. “It’s so wonderful to read of an adventure where the protagonist uses their wits in order to achieve victory, instead of ruthless brawn!”
The librarian stroked the end of his muzzle in thought. “That sounds like a familiar story, honestly…perhaps it could be a bit akin to your own?” he proposed, as he slipped a piece of paper right into the path of Beatrice’s reading. “Since you’re well overdue on Sylaire’s ‘Quest For Knowledge!’”
It was a book that Beatrice knew well, though she’d never actually seen it before. Anyone in the wizarding community knew that the tome was said to contain all of the greatest secrets of perhaps the most powerful wizard to ever live, and yet, it was little more than a myth; no one existed who ever had the pleasure of thumbing through the pages.
“I can’t possibly be late on a book that might not even exist!” Beatrice shouted back, her normally docile, white-tipped feathers ruffling in a display of her frustration. “I can’t believe you would accuse me of that!”
“My paperwork is the only paperwork that matters,” the librarian explained, “And if you don’t have that book by midnight, the doors will close on this library, and on your membership to it.”
Legend had it that the tome did in fact exist in the real world, and if all of the legends were true, then the tome was resting somewhere in the Waterfowl Public Library, but Beatrice was sure that she knew every nook and cranny of the building like the back of her hand.
“I’d suggest you put that book down and get looking, Beatrice. Good luck.”
The librarian couldn’t contain his sinister laughter as he walked away, and Beatrice, for her part, could feel the joy slipping from her being as she closed her current book around the late fee notice and did her best not to sulk.
She truly was like the hero of her beloved story, unable to win the day with brawn, but perhaps, with her intelligence, and just a little extra help from a friend, she might be able to find a way out of the mess.
“I…I would look in the second basement,” came a timid voice from over her shoulder. It was the assistant bookkeeper, taking a small break from their herculean task of cleaning up after the messes of all of the library patrons, and picking up the slack of the head librarian, himself. “There are some small tunnels and catacombs down there from when the city was first built. Perhaps the tome was hidden within them for safe keeping?”
A friendly, albeit nervous smile played upon the muzzle of the orange tabby, and with her brilliance, Beatrice could see the honesty within the feline’s expression. “I shall certainly take a look there, old friend. I thank you for your aid…I promise that your assistance won’t be overlooked.”
In a haste that she rarely moved with, Beatrice left her book upon the desk and slipped through the stacks and shelves, moving to the place in the back of the library where a spiral staircase of black metal went up to the top floor, but as well, it curled down into the bowels of the building, to a dark and spooky room that Beatrice thought was the only basement.
“Illumina,” she whispered, casting a quick incantation of light. Brilliant streams of a white glow radiated across the darkened room, riddled with old, dusty, forgotten tomes of yesteryear, and in the midst of the otherwise unremarkable room, a hook sat upon the floor, with a trap door attached.
Her entire life could be described as a quest for knowledge, and though that was only an analogy before, Beatrice felt a rush of excitement at the thought that perhaps, she might actually find some greater form of intelligence, all at the behest of a personal villain.
In the ruins of the second basement, long forgotten to time, Beatrice felt as though she’d stepped into an ancient civilization. The stacks of books were kept in an ornate mixture of wood and stone rather than modern steel, and the floors, though riddled with dust and tattered pages, were carved with letters in a language that Beatrice was sure that she’d seen before…she only wished that the sands of time were kinder to the words, so that she might be able to discern them.
Guided by the light of her spell, Beatrice noticed that names were carved into the sides of each stack. From left to right, the underground library was set in alphabetical order, and sure enough, her wisdom guided her to the downright impressive collection of works by the legendary SinrovaSylaire.
Even in the limited room of the basement, the catalogue was simply massive, and though the ceilings were no taller than any other library she’d ever seen, Beatrice felt dwarfed by the amount of knowledge that Sylairewas able to collect over the years.
She was filled with remorse, however, at the state of his works. Most of the books fell apart the moment that she pulled them from the stacks, and she worried that perhaps, her fate was sealed when she found the words she’d been looking for on the binding of an old, dust-caked tome, still bound with dying leather: “Quest For Knowledge.”
Beatrice didn’t know how much time she had to make it to the top, and she no longer cared. The treasure she found was worth more than a library membership…it carried a value that no money could buy, and no person could ever trade her for. Beside herself with an excitement that made it nigh impossible to hold the book still, Beatrice sat down and shook with delight as she gazed over every page that still remained in the decrepit tome.
It wasn’t until she was nearly one hundred pages in that her excitement started to fade away, as words became blurry, and the pages that fell from the tome were mostly blank…quill and ink, it seemed, were no match for Father Time, no matter how great their source of magic was.
Clutching the book in her talons and making her way back to the main level of the library floor, Beatrice knew what the librarian would say, but she had no care for his words. She didn’t even acknowledge him as she took the book with her, and walked right out the door of the building, deciding that it had nothing left for her.
“You…you actually found it!” the orange tabby declared, as she followed Beatrice out into the cool air of an Autumn evening. “I don’t believe it! The book was supposed to be a myth!”
“I found what was left of it,” Beatrice admitted, “And your boss would never accept that.”
“He can be…a bit of a pain in the neck,” the feline agreed, careful of her choice of words. “But what you’ve found is worth more than every book in the building above! We must catalogue it!”
A forlorn sigh passed from Beatrice as she turned to her feline companion and opened the book to the middle. Dust fell from the seams, and blank pages scattered across the sidewalk. “Even the brilliance of Sylaire fades with time, my friend. I only pray that there is another copy elsewhere in the world…and I’ve determined that it is my mission to find it.”
“May I…may I join you?” asked the feline, as she bent down to pick up the scattered pages. “My name’s Fiona…Fiona Rittengard…and your passion for knowledge is downright inspiring.”
That same quest for knowledge would take Beatrice across the countryside as she searched for the remaining pages of Sylaire’s greatest work, and her desire to preserve knowledge became her charge. She made it her mission to collect, protect and promote knowledge above all else, and when the doors of her house first opened at Dogwarts, it was Fiona Rittengard, the feline who believed in her, who became her first and foremost student.
She was the first of many to follow Beatrice, who, if knowledge were a wingspan, could cast a shadow over all of Dogwarts, or so the saying goes…