A/N: Just in case anybody reading this wasn't aware, this takes place three years before 'Mortal Engines'.
The London Museum was loud with the hustle and bustle of the young Apprentices; it was early June, and the end of the academic year had arrived. It was the final day. It was the day of the end-of-year awards ceremony.
It was an important day for all who were involved, from the high Guildsmen right down to the youngest Apprentices. The eldest batch of Apprentices would graduate to become fully-fledged members of the Guild of Historians. Apprentices of all ages had the opportunity to win prestigious prizes.
As the Apprentices eagerly entered the main hall of the Museum (it was a Wednesday, so the Museum was closed to the public), Chief Curator Chudleigh Pomeroy prepared to make an opening speech. He always enjoyed the awards ceremony; he was getting on in years, and it always pleased him to see the potential that the young Apprentices offered, assuring him that the work of the Guild will continue for at least another generation. As Dr Arkengarth led the final group of Apprentices to their seats, Chudleigh Pomeroy flattened down his long black robes, straightened his toupee and searched for a reassuring look from Dr Nancarrow, who was standing beside him.
Twelve-year-old Apprentice Thomas Natsworthy was at the back of the line of Third Class Apprentices led in by Dr Arkengarth, and disappointedly found himself struggling to see over the Apprentices in front of him as he found a seat at the back of the hall.
He watched eagerly as old Mr Pomeroy walked out onto the temporary stage that had been constructed at the front of the hall and began his speech.
"Greetings, Apprentices!" boomed Chudleigh Pomeroy. "Another year has come to pass already; another year has now become history. And that is what the Guild of Historians is all about. Preserving the past. Making sure that the lives of those who came before us are not forgotten. One day, I hope that some of you who now sit here before me will one day be up on this stage making this very speech. The legacy of the Historians is great, spanning over seven centuries. And you are the future of the Guild." Pomeroy paused for a moment, again trying to straighten his toupee. "But now we must move on to the end-of-year awards to reward those of you who have contributed more than ever to our Guild. This year, I will be joined in presenting the awards by none other than our Head Historian, Mr Thaddeus Valentine."
Valentine is here! Tom thought as murmurs rippled round the hall. Just like many Apprentice Historians, Tom idolised Valentine, who had risen through the ranks from being a lowly out-country scavenger to becoming the leader of one of London's most influential Guilds. He had read and re-read Valentine's published works Adventures of a Practical Historian and America Deserta - Across the Dead Continent with Gun, Camera and Airship until he knew them off by heart. He even had a picture of the great man tacked to the wall above his bunk in the dormitory.
Suddenly London's ever-popular Head Historian took to the stage to the sound of rapturous applause. Thaddeus Valentine was a man in his mid to late thirties, dressed smartly in black robes similar to those that Pomeroy was wearing. He was a tall, handsome man with a man of silver-flecked black hair with a neatly-trimmed black beard. He looked out brightly towards the Apprentices through his welcoming, grey mariner's eyes and he had the Guild-mark of the Historians (a blue eye that looks backwards into time) tattooed onto his forehead between his eyebrows.
Tom desperately tried to crane his head around those in front of his to get a clear view of his hero as he moved to stand behind Pomeroy as the Chief Curator continued with proceedings.
"But now before Mr Valentine performs his role, we have several awards to give out, starting with this one, which is for the Apprentice who has completed the year with the best attitude towards..."
As the morning became a whirlwind of announcements, awards and applause, Tom became increasingly impatient. He knew that he wouldn't win anything during the ceremony; he was only a mere Third Class Apprentice, after all. His parents (who had been Historians themselves) had left young Tom in the care of the Guild of Historians before they were killed in the Big Tilt six years ago. In comparison to the First and Second Class Apprentices, whose parents paid for their education, the Thirds barely won anything during the ceremony. Nearly all the awards were given to Firsts, such as Rupert Plym (who was the son of a member of the Guild) or Clytie Potts (whose grandfather had been Lord Mayor of London before Tom had been born).
All the Apprentices began to become bored as the morning dragged on, with the Apprentices becoming hot in their black tunics as the June sun shone down into the Museum. Eventually, the long ceremony reached its climax with the Head Historian's Award, which would be presented by Thaddeus Valentine himself. Along with most of the other Apprentices, Tom regained interest as Chudleigh Pomeroy introduced the award.
"Now, this award will be presented to the Apprentice who has shown outstanding performance in comparison to their fellow classmates this year," began Pomeroy, who was starting to look red-faced due to the heat in the Museum. "Now I shall hand over to Mr Valentine for the presentation of the award."
The whole room became absolutely silent as the Head Historian took centre stage.
"This year, the winner of the Head Historian's award goes to one of the twelve-year-olds," began Valentine.
Oh, great, thought Tom. He knew that the award would go to one of the cocky First Class Apprentices in his year, such as Herbert Melliphant or Ronnie Pennyfeather.
"This Apprentice particularly stood out last month, when all the Apprentices were asked to produce an essay about identifying fake antiquities, but has been an eager and hard-working Apprentice throughout the year. This award," said Valentine, pausing for dramatic effect. Nearly all the twelve-year-old Apprentices were leaning forward on the edge of their seats, hoping for Valentine to read our their name.
"This award," repeated Valentine. "Goes to Mr Thomas Natsworthy."
Tom really didn't know how to react, so he just sat in his chair, shocked. Eventually he came to his senses just enough to walk up to the stage at the front of the hall to receive his award from the Head Historian to the sound of applause from his fellow Apprentices.
"Congratulations, Thomas," said Valentine as he handed him his prize; a signed copy of Valentine's latest book, Further Adventures of a Practical Historian, which had been released to the public only the week before.
Valentine then put a hand on Tom's shoulder and stood with him, facing out towards the audience as he began a speech, which was customary at these events.
"Never forget, Apprentices," began Valentine. "That we Historians are the most important Guild in our city. We don't make as much money as the Merchants, but we create knowledge, which is worth a great deal more. We may not be responsible for steering London, like the Navigators, but where would the Navigators be if we hadn't preserved the ancient maps and charts? And as for the Guild of Engineers, just remember that every machine that they have ever developed is based on some fragment of Old-Tech - ancient high technology that our museum-keepers have preserved or our archaeologists have dug up."
Then Valentine stood back and gestured Tom towards the edge of the stage as the Apprentices applauded once more.
Tom, who was completely overwhelmed by the occasion, managed to quickly mumble "thank-you, sir" towards Valentine before hurrying off back to his seat.
The ceremony concluded as Chudleigh Pomeroy called onto stage all of the sixteen-year-old Apprentices who had recently earned their Guild-marks for their initiation ceremony, but Tom was no longer paying attention. His brain was busy thinking about other things.
After all, he had just met his hero.
A/N: Please review! Constructive criticism is welcomed. I hope this is Philip Reeve-ish enough, but I'm unsure. Please feel free to let me know what you think :)