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July 13th, 2018
When Lucilius was a young man, he worked as a scribe for a very learned scholar in a vast library. There was a pervasive military presence in the city at the time and the attacks and vying for position with enemies was a daily constant. But, being such a young man of noble and lofty conceptions, Lucilius never imagined that his beloved work at the library would ever have anything to do with the outside world.
But that day the market was deserted and the sky was black to the north. Lucilius quickened his pace so that he could have time to see what was happening before he had to be at the library. As he hastened, the low buildings slowly shifted apart, the street widening and opened to reveal the docks, where ships were burning. Rising above the people watching, the smoke filling the sky. A commander had tactically set fire to his own ships to thwart an enemy. But the tactic was a risky one, and all moves in war, even the most restrained, hunger for casualties.
As Lucilius neared the end of the street where people thronged at a safe distance to gawk at the spectacle, Lucilius’ gaze followed the path of the raging fire, his heart rising to choke him. The great library was ablaze with all the ships, engulfed and fed by new winds, carrying the fire into the city.
Lucilius felt the pall of death creeping round him, though nothing was dying. He ran towards the library, a hysterical terror rising in him. Most of the building was alight and the flames were spreading. Lucilius could see, knowing the inside, what sections were being eaten, devoured by the flame, the endless scrolls twisting to black crackle before dissolving into grey powders, authors turning to embers and the only recorded memory of mankind dissipating like a small puddle before the hottest summer suns.
Drawing close enough to feel the magnificent heat of the inferno, Lucilius collapsed at a gap in a line of men staring at the bright tragedy. Lucilius wept for the lost words, his mind wrenched into a hopelessness for the future. The many souls that would come will have none of the wisdom that he and so many before him had toiled to preserve.
The library was gone and Lucilius, still on his knees, looked up at the smoking carcass of the building. Beside him remained, an old man, the scholar he worked for, whom he had not noticed during the magnificent destruction of the library. The old scholar was smiling while looking upon the lost treasure of words.
“How can you smile at this tragedy?” Lucilius snapped at the old man in sadness.
“Dear boy, we have a new start. So many old moldy words. They keep us from discovering what else we need to find.”
“How can you say this? How many times have you regaled to me the endless wisdom that we had in our hands.”
The old scholar shrugged. “What is true will be true forever. What is true does not need any fragile dark mark made on some scroll. What is true will be found again, it will fly through the whims of fate like a divine arrow, straight and true.”
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