by Yoon Ha Lee
Eskevan Three of Thorns had dropped his lensgear in the gutter. Twice he had been splashed by murky water while determining the best way to retrieve the lens. He had another hour before the water started circulating. Having sullied the yellow-trimmed coat that declared him a licensed librarian, Eskevan felt doubly reluctant either to remove his gauntlets or to plunge them into the water.
There the lensgear gleamed, polished and precise. Enough dithering. He would have to hope that no one questioned his credentials tonight. The master archivist always said a shabby librarian was no librarian at all, but it could not be helped.
Other parts of the city boasted libraries of indexed splendor. Other librarians handled nothing more threatening than curling vellum and tame, untarnished treatises. Eskevan did not aspire to any such thing. In the dimmest hours, he admitted that he exulted in the wayward winds and the grime underfoot, the heady knowledge of the paths words traveled.
He had heard the whispers up and down the city’s tiers, and the whispers distilled into a single warning: The Spider ascends. Eskevan, who lived merely three tiers underground, a child of the chasm’s kindly shallows, could not fathom the depths to which the city descended or the vast distances that the Spider must traverse.