“You need to rest,” said Sabriel, after Lirael and Nick returned from battle, after she got them in her arms.
“You have to rest,” said the twins, as they offered up her rooms in the Glacier once more.
“You should rest!” snapped Aunt Kirrith, just before the summonings booted her out for the third time.
“Hey, love,” said Nick, tucking a strand of hair back behind her ear, as they lay together on soft pillows. “Let’s just… stay in bed all day, yeah?”
It wasn’t as though she didn’t want to, there was just something nagging her, biting at her, stopping her from truly resting. She couldn’t figure out what it was. She was sleeping, she was eating, she was nearly crippled with happiness in the aftermath of that last battle, but something dark and worrying stayed wedged in the back of her head. There should not be something stuck in the back of her head. She saved the world. Again. She was safe. Her friends were safe. She was allowed a moment of reprieve. So why did she feel so unsettled?
The first day in the Glacier, she slept for sixteen hours. The second she spent with Nick, who showed her all sorts of new, fun, loving things and made her entirely too happy. The morning of the third day, when that happiness failed to erase the itch in the back of her skull, Lirael decided that something needed to be done.
She needed to both think and get out at the same time. She needed a spark of inspiration, something to help her discover what felt wrong. She needed to go to the Library.
She was sitting at the coffee table in the bedroom she now shared with Nick, her hands cupping her mug of hot breakfast chocolate, her hair messy from sleep. Nick was tugging on an undershirt behind her, she didn’t turn around to look at him.
“I...” she said, staring firmly at the cup. As habit, she let her hair fall over her face. “I need to spend some time by myself today.”
The noises of movement behind her stopped. Lirael bit her lip. Nick said, hesitantly, “Are you alright?”
She didn’t quite know how to answer. But she was determined to be a good communicator, determined to not muck up a relationship she thought was going spectacularly, and said, “Something has been bothering me since we came to the Glacier. I don’t know what it is… And I think some time in the Library would do me good.”
“Oh, I get it, like some kind of soul searching nature retreat,” he said, and continued to put his shirt on. Lirael finally exhaled. “How long will you be gone?”
After figuring out some logistics with him (she’d be back for supper), she got ready for the day, and for another adventure in the Library. She took all her essentials-- her bells, her sword, her new keyring that now unlocked every door she could ever imagine. It was thrilling to go back, after so long away.
But where to start. She’d been gone so long she forgot all the nooks and crannies she wanted to explore as a teenager, all the undiscovered secrets and adventures she planned on going on with Dog. So she went to one of the higher ranking librarians and asked if there were any particular items that needed fetching.
After some insistence that yes, she did want to do this, and no, this was not beneath the Abhorsen-In-Waiting, the librarian gave in and assigned Lirael to fetch a particular batch of dried herbs that was apparently giving a lower ranking librarian trouble. Said lower ranking librarian was adverse to the cold. Apparently it was a cold weather jaunt, nothing too severe, but something that would require special equipment and a long walk. Lirael jotted down the location and took a sketch of the herb bundle, put cold weather boots and a big fur coat on, then set off on her way down the library paths to fetch the item.
They were foreign to her now, corridors with tall shelves and dusty air that used to feel like home. She walked through aisles and aisles of books, alone and without her dear Dog. The door leading to the requested herbs was behind a pile of used, ancient instruments, which Lirael had to clear out of the way with manual work and a little elbow grease.
It unlocked with a flash of her bracelet, Charter marks of recognition alight over the door. It opened direct into the Glacier itself, ice halls of green-blue surrounding her like a cave of glass. She was thankful for the warm coat and furs-- she wouldn’t last long without them.
During her walk, she thought of nothing in particular, kept her mind completely blank as she wandered straight down the icy path. It glowed with its own white, inner light, allowing her to see clearly as she made her way to the destination. It was refreshing to keep her thoughts empty, to allow herself to focus on nothing but movement, not on whatever unknown worry nagged in the back of her head.
It took about an hour or two, she didn’t know the specific time nor did she care. The hall got colder and colder as she ventured towards the edge of the Glacier, and it became blisteringly freezing when the hall finally opened up to an outside plateau. Snow and wind roared and blasted her face, she tucked her chin down further into her scarf. Afternoon light streamed through the blizzard, reflected off the glimmering powder stuck along the rocky ridges. She had to be careful here, to skirt along the edges of the Glacier cliff, hands against the ice, until she got to her destination.
There was a hut out here, in the mountain storm. A perfect little cottage, preserved in the harsh weather by ancient Charter marks, cast by librarians long dead. It was a house one might picture by a babbling brook, the kind of rustic little abode best suited for charming paintings and postcards. It was built against the great wall of the Glacier. Lirael found the front door of it through the blinding white blizzard, her mittens fumbling on the doorknob, and pushed herself into the cottage.
A fire roared to life as soon as she stepped inside. The smell of old wood and cinnamon overwhelmed her senses. She shut the door behind her.
The cottage inside was small, constructed of pine wood, rickety floorboards and criss crossing rafters. It was one room. A kitchen on the left, a toasty fireplace in front of her, tiny two person table and window on the right, and a loft for a bed above that. There were some pillows laid out in front of the fireplace, big and cushy, just asking for someone to lounge and read a good book on. The place was friendly and warm, and smelled nostalgic, like cold days and hot soup. Lirael loosened her coat and scarf.
She wondered why the Clayr stored this cottage. Perhaps it belonged to some great Charter user in the past, or perhaps they had Seen it to be useful. She figured that the herbs she was after would be in the kitchen. It looked fully stocked.
She opened up the drawers, the cabinets on the wall, looked in the bins underneath the counter. There were plenty of dried herbs, but she didn’t see anything that matched the particular bundle she was searching for. On her third check through the kitchen, she realized that she had found bits and pieces of the bundle. She realized that she would have to assemble the particular arrangement of herbs herself.
She sighed. She took off her cold weather gear, now feeling fairly warm in the cozy cottage. She set it all on the chair next to the window. Outside, the blizzard raged, quietly.
There was a little bookshelf on the wall, and Lirael couldn’t stop herself from browsing the titles. It exclusively contained cookbooks. She opened one up, curious. It appeared to be for different types of homemade tea. She flipped through the pages, idly, and one recipe caught her eye. A black tea with rose petals, dried orange, and cinnamon. She supposed the kitchen had all those ingredients.
Going back to the drawers and cabinets, Lirael focused half on assembling the requested herbal bundle for the librarian, and half on putting together the tea listed in the book. There was something calming about putting together a recipe, about following a plan. It poked at that little mysterious worry, sated it somehow.
Fifteen minutes later and she had both the ingredients for the tea and the ingredients for the bundle. She wrapped up the bundle and placed it safe in her pack, the herbs for the tea she wrapped in a cheesecloth she found in the kitchen. There was a sink and working iron water pump, which she used to fill up a mug she found in the top cabinet. She cast a Charter mark to boil the water, then placed the cheesecloth in it. Three minute steep, the recipe said.
After the brew, she took the mug of tea over to the little table. It smelled especially like orange and cinnamon. She sat down, blew on the tea, and took a sip. It tasted almost like the mulled wine she got at winter festivals. It brought back memories of easy, happy times. She looked out the window, at the frozen whiteout, roaring against the glass.
As she sat, and drank, and did nothing, the itch in the back of her head became apparent again. She tried to pinpoint it, focus on what it was, what she was doing differently now versus two minutes ago. Two minutes ago she was following a recipe, had a plan. Now, she sits idle.
It came to her so sudden she didn’t know why she didn’t think of it before. It was the feeling of wrongness, that the act of resting is wrong. That it is only a temporary reprieve in a life where she must always be active and going and doing.
It was the feeling that she will never get a rest.
To be the Abhorsen, to be the Abhorsen-In-Waiting, is to live a life where there is something always around the corner. Something always happening. She defeated the Destroyer, she defeated Chlorr of the Mask, but what will come next? She will have to stand up and face it, fight until her body gives out, then fight past that. She has the world to take care of. She cannot rest.
She will not do it begrudgingly, she will not do it only because she is compulsed to do so by destiny, she will do it because she loves and cares and believes too much. But Charter, she will be so tired. She will never get a chance to rest, never get a true chance to let it all go and forget.
This will never stop. There will always be something. And she will always rise to it.
She sipped at her tea, and stared at the snow. She set her mug down on the table, leaned forward on her elbows. She listened to the fire crackle.
She felt better identifying the source of her worry. Worry about the future, that what she is currently experiencing is a lie, that her happiness is temporary, that she will soon be thrown into another life or death situation sending her to her limits. And because she identified the source, she can sort out what to do about it. Figure out a solution.
And perhaps the best solution is to let go. So what if she has ups and downs, so what if her life alternates between stress and rest, so what if it always will. Should she let the worry that the future might be tough affect her in the present, when there’s nothing she can do about it? She should rest, enjoy her time with Nick, drink her tea. Live life.
Easier thought than put into action. But perhaps thinking over those thoughts, discussing them with her loved ones, might ease her pain. Yes, she had friends and family who would sympathize with her, who might even be feeling the same things.
She took her time, finishing her tea. She slowly gathered her things, put on her coat and hat and mittens. She made sure she cleaned up after herself before exiting the cottage. The fire went out as soon as she stepped out into the cold weather.