The Immortality of the Deathless
Author: Milady Dragon
Disclaimer: I don't own Torchwood, because if I did certain things would never have happened. And we all know what those are…
Author's note: Okay, this is wildly AU. I've never done anything like this before, so I hope it doesn't stink too much. Being a fan of fantasy, this just sort of came to me, so I thought I would run with it. Reviews would be greatly appreciated.
And for those who are following my other fanfic, Random, I should have the next chapter up by the weekend. I had to write this as a big, massive coping mechanism for the events in "Children of Earth".
Master Archivist Ianto Jones sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose and knocking his glasses out of place. He stretched, his back cracking painfully as he slid off the stool he'd been sitting on for…how many hours now? He glanced up at the chronometer and grimaced…five hours gone, and the translation on this particular scroll was going very wrong, even with the help of the glasses.
He sighed again, reaching for his cup…and then spitting the cold – and scummy – coffee back out again. Ianto carefully gathered up the scroll he'd been working on, tucking the delicate parchment back into its tube, then once his kidskin gloves were lying neatly on the desk took his cup and left the archive, heading back up into the well-lit and lived-in sections of Torchwood Castle.
Working for the current Baron and Baroness of Cardiff was almost as close to a dream job as Ianto could get. He'd been employed there for three years, and had been Head Archivist for two of those, ever since they'd learned of his…special talents. It was a lofty position for someone so young, and the older archivists under him didn't much appreciate Ianto's jump in seniority. But Ianto accepted their ire with a quiet smile, and did his job to the best of his ability. It was the only thing he could really do.
The stairs spilled him out near the kitchens, which was Ianto's destination. This time of day the lunch preparations would be almost done, and he could get a fresh cup of coffee and perhaps a bite to eat, before heading back down into the archives. The smells coming from the kitchens were making his stomach rumble; the muffin he'd had for breakfast had been a long time ago.
The friendly shout greeted him as he entered the main kitchen. "Mistress Heather," he greeted the Head Cook in his quiet voice, which she seemed perfectly capable of hearing over the clatter of the working cooks and maids.
The matronly Head of Kitchen smiled from a face flushed with exertion. "You spend too much time down in those musty archives. You're as pale as milk, you are…"
Ianto stifled the smile that threatened to arise on his face, preferring to keep a stern look even though he was secretly amused by the woman's fussing. "I am perfectly fine, thank you."
"Just as you say, Master Ianto," Heather's smile didn't fade as she accepted his mock rebuke. This bickering was normal for the two of them. "I have some lovely meat pastries if you're ready for your lunch."
"Thank you," he said politely, moving out of the way of a pair of young boys, who were carrying between them a spitted chunk of meat for the evening's dinner.
"You're welcome," Heather answered, waving him over to the counter. "Just let me get you a fresh cup too, dear."
Ianto handed the cup over. Truthfully, he preferred preparing his own coffee, but Mistress Heather's own brew wasn't half bad. And he was feeling a bit lazy. That scroll was irritating him to no end…
He bumped the glasses back up on his nose as Heather brought him a plate and his freshly-filled cup. "You should eat more; you're like a little bird…"
Ianto didn't dignify that with a response. She was always trying to fatten him up. "Thank you again, Mistress Heather."
"No problem, dear. If you want more, just ask."
Ianto took his plate and cup back down to the archives, where he could eat in peace. He actually preferred being alone; with his papers, scrolls and books. He'd taken quite a bit of time that first year of responsibility in reorganizing, since the last master archivist had been a bit of a procrastinator when it had come to putting things in their proper places. Which, of course, one of the reasons why he hadn't lasted long in the position. Torchwood Castle needed to be organized, if it meant to fulfill its mission.
And Ianto took that mission very seriously indeed.
Setting his plate and cup on his work desk, Ianto pulled his stool back up and sat down. The lamp over the desk cast pleasant beams of light over the shelves with their neatly stacked books and scrolls that surrounded the work area. The archives themselves extended many hundreds of feet back into the bedrock that formed the foundation of the great castle…and Ianto knew every inch.
He ate quickly yet fastidiously, the meat pies as good as always. Once his stomach was full, Ianto set the plate aside, then pulled his kidskin gloves back on, the best to not damage the delicate parchment that unfurled from its tube and onto the desk.
Then Ianto readjusted his glasses, letting his mind relax. Then he blinked once.
The ancient language on the scroll began to wriggle and move on its own, rearranging into words that Ianto might actually be able to read. This was one of his many talents: the ability to tap into the magic of the glasses, to be able to mesh their power with his own brain. He'd been the first in three generations of scholars to be able to do so, and that had made him very valuable to the Baroness. It had precipitated his rise to Master Archivist…and had incurred the jealousy of the other archivists who worked among the shelves and vaults of Torchwood Castle.
Of course, there were other reasons he'd been promoted…not that anyone else had understood that. The rumors had been particularly vicious. But of course Ianto had simply smiled slightly and let them talk. He knew the truth, as did the Baroness and Baron. False claims against him wouldn't hurt him in the least.
Ianto could feel the power of the glasses in his head as he stared at the words on the scroll. He'd never considered himself a magical person, but that had changed when he'd accidentally touched one of the many Artifacts the castle housed…and it had activated. That had led to the Testing…and to him gaining the designation Catalyst, someone who could bring out the magic in items when no one else could.
It pleased him, in more ways than he could count. He liked the idea of being special, even though he often did his best to keep to the background, so that people didn't notice him.
There…some of the words were making a little sense. Ianto reached for a pen and paper, writing down what he would read. The fragment "touch of death and life" jumped out at him, and he scribbled it hastily, knowing he'd have to translate his own handwriting once he was done. He had to keep his eyes on the parchment, and writing blind meant that no one would be able to read his notes later.
More words were becoming clear. Ianto kept writing, knowing the magic of the glasses would fade the more tired he became. There were still huge gaps in the translation; he would have many more days to work on it. But from just what he was getting now, Ianto knew he had something important.
And when he was done, and his head was aching from the use of the magic, Ianto called to one of the apprentices.
"Brandon," he said, once the boy was present, "go and ask the Baroness' secretary for an audience with Her Grace at once…"