Initially, I started reading these books as a favor; now I have a favorite character. This is my first stab at an Allanon character study, or really anything set in the Shannara universe. It's only a one shot, as I have something bigger planned, but I wanted a little practice before diving off into a multi-chaptered fic. Strictly speaking, in Allanon's timeline this is set before he encounters Shea and the events in Sword, but long enough after The First King for him to be used to being the only Druid.
As always, enjoy.
His fingers graze the walls chiseled from the rock, brushing crevices thick with dust.
If memories are anything, he's learnt that they must be wisping out with the dust he's sending into the air, curling into darkness, not to be heard from again until he once more finds their hiding place and disturbs them.
He smiles to himself, a hint of mockery wound around the twist of his lips. He's gotten very good at finding things and disturbing them lately.
The last Druid of Paranor sits down at his desk, sending up fresh clouds of dust. It's always like this, each time he comes back. This room has become the most difficult place to access in the entire keep, concealed by shifting doors and spidery staircases, secret passages in which one must take precisely the right turn or be lost forever. It reminds him too much of himself: the circuitous paths, the hazards circling the heart of Druids' Keep (although now, it's really only Druid's Keep); everything is serpentine, evasive, and nothing is as it seems.
Books line the study walls, all of them faded with time. He once tried casting preservation spells on them to keep the dust off, but discovered that after a few decades of sleep the enchantments disintegrated, becoming one more coating of age on the room's surfaces. More often than not, on waking up, he has found himself covered in a thin white layer, puffs of bright smoke exploding into the air as soon as he moves an appendage. The books he was particularly upset about. He loved the histories, sought to give the ancient volumes that waited on his shelves until he called on them a worthy place. He was hardly one to do disservice to a book, much less his private library.
But, he almost-always came back to this room exhausted; if not, he barely stayed a moment, finding only the information he needed, then dashing out. Sometimes, he attempted to read at length after such a stint, and found himself slumped in his chair years later, his candle long snuffed out, the ink morphed to solid on the tip of his pen.
The only movement that remained constant was the gathering of dust.
This baffled him. Learned as he was, he had difficulty fathoming how his possessions and himself could become so thoroughly coated sleep after long sleep when the room was so far removed from the rest of the Keep. The first few times he'd made this unfortunate discovery on waking, he'd rebelled. He cleaned meticulously, mopped up each trace of the offending particles and restored each tome to the glory of years past, his fingers savoring the feel of their spines, relishing their clean binding. But, with each awakening, he'd find new pockets of dust, books he'd forgotten or lost to the dust for years too long.
Eventually, he stopped. He had to leave sometime: he was as much a shadowy gear in the world's mechanism as the forces he strove against. He still came back, tried to read, more often attempted to write about what he had wrought before giving himself over to sleep. Each time, he faded from the world and with his absence the dust moved back in, as encroaching and unstoppable as darkness.
Everything goes in cycles. He knows this, his hands know it, wearily turning pages over and winding up a scrolls of parchment. With the cease of his movement, his constant touch, the dust moves in, sealing him and his secrets away until the next time he wakes and subdues it, casting it back into its corners with a flick of his wrist. He yawns, his tired eyes roving the small study, wondering.
Movement is the key to everything, he's sure. He hardly sleeps when he's out in the world, knowing that speed is necessary, that he must set crucial events into action. He strides the length of the Four Lands, not tiring, making certain that the players he's selected are moving in the directions they should. Nothing about him is still; even at night, he keeps watch, forms new schemes, waits for his companions to awaken once more and begin again.
But now, he's done. His companions have dispersed; their match against darkness won, or at least drawn. He and his adversary retreat to their hiding places, gathering their strength for another age, another flurry of motion and machination.
Allanon's eyes flutter shut, fighting the oncoming slumber but slowly giving in. A small part of him always wants to stay conscious, see the century out, but he's never been a match for the fatigue, no matter how many times he contests it. Soon, he too is still, and the only movement in the great halls of Paranor is the swirl of the dust as it slowly settles back into place.