They never failed to surprise him. They never ceased to amaze. Every one of them was a story, a rich history, a saga of loves and losses filled with all the passions of mankind.
Here is a miner, dirt-blackened face breaking into a smile at the sight of his children: one girl, one boy, the most desirable combinations of all. And weren't they beautiful? Weren't they precious? Surely there were no more beautiful children in the world.
Here is a farmer, his face red with sun, his skin weathered by the winds. Day to day, his life played out: a tale of great hardship and great rewards. Fine pigs for the show. Fine corn for the stalls. And from them all the things to make a man's life sweeter: blades for the kitchen, blades for the plow, pots, pans, and a new wagon wheel. Sugar, salt, and taffeta for his wife, who has not had a new dress in years although she deserves so much more.
Here is a guard, new to the job. His first assignment is an easy one, but he dislikes it. Standing guard outside the gates, sun burning into his eyes, he dreams of the girl waiting for him in town. They will be married in a month and he can hardly wait. She is the most beautiful girl in the city, she is the most beautiful girl in the world, and she loves him, him, him…
Here is a fruit seller, aging gracefully. Her sons and her grandsons pick the fruit. Her daughters and her granddaughters make pies and bake breads to be sold on a side table. She, however, continues to manage the money, undisputed matriarch of her clan. Her wrinkled hands hold out an apple, an offering. See how lovely, how fresh, how ripe it is.
The books of the library were many and varied. They spoke of lives long past and of lives recently lived. They sat silently on their shelves, activated only by those who wished to read them, but when so activated, spoke of courage and despair, love and hate, cowardice and heroism.
And yet… And yet…
How to make the others see that these dead and buried books were not the be all and end all of humanity? As important as it was to preserve the past, it was no excuse for allowing the present to languish. How could anyone sit and read about times long gone when the world was here, right now, waiting to be experienced?
Volken took the fruit and pressed a coin into the woman's hand. She smiled at him and he was startled by the clarity of her eyes. She was beautiful once, in her youth, and now, again, in her old age.
Volken smiled back. Humans never ceased to amaze him. They were always a surprise.