Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Case Study No. 0843: Rook Barkwater

The Last of the Sky Pirates The Edge Chronicles, Book Audio Book
http://www.qb ba.com/ book/12583/ the-last-of-the-sky- pirates-the-edge- chronicles-book-7/
Rook Barkwater dreams of becoming a librarian knight sent out to explore the mysteries of the Edgeworld. So when his chance comes, he grabs it....
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From wikipedia.org:

The Last of the Sky Pirates is a children's fantasy novel by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, first published in 2002. It is the fifth volume of The Edge Chronicles and the first of the Rook Saga trilogy; within the stories' own chronology it is the seventh novel, following the Quint Saga and Twig Saga trilogies.

Unlike the previous books in the series, this focuses on Rook Barkwater and Felix Lodd, but the main character of the first three books, Twig, is present as well. The story is of young Rook as he becomes a librarian knight and is pitted against the Guardians of the Night, including Xanth Filantine. The character of Vox Verlix is mentioned, setting up for the sixth book, Vox.

Plot summary
Rook Barkwater lives in the network of sewer-chambers beneath Undertown, in which a society of librarians has established itself, secretly opposing the cruel Guardians of Night. Rook, a lowly under-librarian, dreams of becoming a librarian knight - one of the select few to travel into the Deepwoods and gather information which may lead to the discovery of the cure to stone-sickness (an affliction which has destroyed the buoyant rocks, making skysailing impossible). Rook does not expect his dreams ever to come true - his best friend, Felix Lodd, seems a much more likely candidate - but, to everyone's surprise, Rook is chosen to be a knight, along with Stob Lummus and Magda Burlix.

Rook, Magda and Stob make their way along the Great Mire Road, a shryke-controlled bridge that has been built to traverse the marshy Mire in place of sky ships. While on the way, Rook helps an imprisoned sky pirate, Deadbolt Vulpoon, to escape. Finally, the librarian knights arrive in the Eastern Roost, a large shryke-city. Employing the help of a male shryke, Hekkle, who is friendly to the librarians, the three make their way across the Deepwoods, eventually arriving at the Free Glades.

After arriving there, Rook, Stob and Magda are joined by Xanth Filatine, a disguised Guardian of Night who is secretly channeling information to the Guardians so that they may ambush the librarian knights as they travel. During Rook's studies, he learns to create a skycraft, which is a small, flying one-person vehicle. Xanth breaks his leg in a skycraft accident, and cannot embark upon his treatise-voyage, the journey for which the knights have been studying. Rook also makes a raid on the Foundry Glade, along with Felix Lodd's sister Varis Lodd (who saved Rook from slavers when he was very young) and the slaughterer Knuckle. The purpose of this raid is to free the banderbear slaves that are kept there. During this raid, Rook takes a poisoned arrow to the chest to save a banderbear's life.

Rook embarks on his treatise-voyage. His goal is to find the Great Convocation of Banderbears. Rook befriends a young banderbear named Wumeru, and he follows her, against her will, to the Convocation. The banderbears discover his presence and are about to kill him when the banderbear who Rook saved in the Foundry Glade stands up for him. Rook is then introduced to Twig, the main character from the second Edge Chronicles trilogy, now an old man. Twig reveals that his sky ship, the Skyraider, has not yet succumbed to stone-sickness. Along with a crew of banderbears, the two set out to attack the fortress of the Guardians of Night: the Tower of the same name. Their purpose is to free Cowlquape Pentephraxis, an old friend of Twig's.

While Twig and the Skyraider keep the Guardians busy, Rook sneaks into the tower on his skycraft and frees Cowlquape. As he is about to fly free, a rope becomes snagged and the skycraft is stuck. Xanth, the traitor, confronts Rook. The two had become good friends during their time together in the Free Glades, a fact that Xanth apparently had not forgotten. Xanth cuts the rope quickly, allowing Rook to fly away safely with Cowlquape.

The Skyraider, meanwhile, had succumbed to stone-sickness, and was slowly dropping over the Edge. Rook and Cowlquape mourn the end of Twig, who had been struck by a crossbow-bolt and had decided to go down with his ship. However, at the last minute, Twig's caterbird, who had sworn to watch over him for always, catches him and flies towards the rejuvenating waters of Riverrise. Whether they make it in time is left as a cliffhanger.


From google.com:

Some claimed that the Mother Storm had brought the terrible sickness with her from Open Sky. Some maintained that Cloud Wolf - the valiant sky pirate captain who had perished inside the Mother Storm - had somehow infected her. Others insisted, with just as much conviction, that there was no connection between the arrival of the Mother Storm and the outbreak, but that stone-sickness was a punishment on those Edge-dwellers who had refused to give up their evil ways.

In short, no-one knew for sure. Only one thing was certain. Stone-sickness meant that life on the Edge would never be the same again.

The league ships were grounded. Sky-trade was at an end. With Undertown and New Sanctaphrax now cut off, the usurper Vox Verlix - the erstwhile cloudwatcher who had ousted the new Most High Academe of New Sanctaphrax - commissioned the building of the Great Mire Road to connect the the twin cities to the Deepwoods. In order to complete the project he enlisted the help of both the fearsome shrykes and the Librarian Academics - a union of earth-scholars and disillusioned sky scholars who had joined their ranks. The consequences were far-reaching.

In the Deepwoods permanent settlements began to spring up for the first time: the Eastern Roost of the shrykes, the Foundry Glade and the Goblin Nations, and far, far to the north-west, between the Silver Pastures and the Hundred Lakes, the Free Glades.In the Mire, a new settlement sprang up overnight, when the sky pirates scuttled all their sky ships together.

Meanwhile, back in Undertown and New Sanctaphrax, despite an uneasy temporary truce, the rift between the sky-scholar Guardians of Night and the Librarian Academics became greater than ever.

The Guardians of Night maintained that the answer to stone-sickness lay in the healing power of storms, believing that Midnight's Spike - at the top of the Sanctaphrax Tower of Night - would attract the electrical energy of passing storms and destroy the terrible pestilence. The Librarian Academics, on the other hand, believed not only that the cure must lie somewhere far out in the Deepwoods, but that, if struck, Midnight's Spike would cause more harm than good.

As the years passed, the Guardians got the upper hand. Led by the notoriously brutal Most High Guardian, Orbix Xaxis, they imposed their will, manipulating the leagues, enslaving the Undertowners and driving the driving the Librarian Academics, literally, underground - for the sewers of Undertown became their new refuge.

It is down here, in the dark, dank, dripping undergound chambers, that an unassuming, yet adventurous, young under-librarian lives. He is thirteen. He is an orphan. When no-one is around, he likes nothing better than to sit at one of the many floating sumpwood desks and bury his head in a treatise-scroll - even though this is strictly forbidden to someone of his lowly status.

He assumes, wrongly, that no-one has ever seen him. However, his disobedience has been both noticed and noted. What is more, it is to have repercussions that noone could ever have predicted.

The Deepwoods, the Stone Gardens, the Edgewater River. Undertown and Sanctaphrax. Names on a map.

Yet behind each name lie a thousand tales - tales that have been recorded in ancient scrolls, tales that have been passed down the generations by word of mouth - tales which even now are being told.

What follows is but one of those tales.

Chapter One - The Great Storm Chamber Library

The young under-librarian awoke drenched in sweat. From all around, echoing down the tunnels of the Undertown sewers, came the sound of the piebald rats' shrill dawn chorus. How they knew the sun was rising over Undertown, high above them, was a mystery to Rook Barkwater. But they did know, and Rook was grateful to be awake. The other nineteen under-librarians in the small sleeping chamber twitched and stirred in their hammocks, but slept on. It would be another couple of hours before the tilderhorns sounded. Until then Rook had the sewers to himself.

He slipped out of the hammock, dressed quicklyand stole across the cold floor. The oil lamp fixed to the damp, mossy wall flickered as he passed by. Inthe furthest hammock Millwist muttered in his sleep. Rook froze. It wouldn't do to be caught.

"For Sky's sake, don't wake up," Rook whispered as Millwist scratched his nose. Then, with a small cry of anger or alarm, the youth rolled onto his side - and fell still.

Rook crept out of the chamber and into the gloom of the narrow corridor outside. The air was cold and clammy. His boots splashed in the puddles on the floor and water dripped down his neck.

When it rained in Undertown, the underground tunnels and pipes filled with water, and the librarian-scholars fought to keep it out of the network of sewers they called home. But still it seeped through the walls and dripped from every ceiling. It hissed on the wall lamps, sometimes extinguishing a flame completely. It fell on mattresses, on blankets, on weapons, clothes - and on the librarian-scholars themselves.

Rook shivered. The dream still echoed in his head. First came the wolves - always the wolves. White-collared. Bristling and baying. Their terrible yellow eyes flashing in the dark forest ...

His father was shouting for him to hide; his mother was screaming. He didn't know what to do. He was running this way, that way. Everywhere were flashing yellow eyes and the sharp, barked commands of the slave-takers.

Rook swallowed hard. It was a nightmare, but what came next was worse; far worse.

He was alone now in the dark woods. The howling of the slavers' wolf pack was receding into the distance. The slave-takers had gone - and taken his mother and father with them. Rook would never see them again. He was four years old, alone in the vastness of the Deepwoods - and something was coming towards him. Something huge ...

And then ...

Then he'd woken up, drenched in sweat, with the shrill sounds of piebald rats in his ears. Just like the time before - and the time before that. The nightmare would return every few weeks, always the same and for as far back as he could remember.

Rook took the left fork at the end of the corridor and went immediately left again; then, fifty strides further on, he turned sharp right into the opening to a low, narrow pipe.

Newcomers to the sewers were forever getting lost in the perplexing labyrinth of pipes and tunnels. But not Rook Barkwater. He knew every cistern, every chamber, every channel. He knew that the pipe he was in was a short cut to the Great Storm Chamber Library - and that even though he had grown tall since he first discovered it, and now had to stoop and stumble his way along, it was still the quickest route.

Emerging at the far end, Rook looked round furtively. To his right, the broad Main Tunnel disappeared back into shadows. It was, he was pleased to see, deserted. To his left, it ended with a great, ornate arch, on the other side of which lay the chamber itself.

Rook took a step forwards and, as the cavernous library chamber opened up before him, his heart fluttered. No matter that he had seen it almost every day for the best part of a decade, the place never failed to amaze him.

The air was warm from the wood-burners, and wafted round in a gentle breeze by hundreds of softly fluttering wind-turners. The buoyant lecterns - which housed the vast library of precious barkscrolls and bound treatises - gently bobbed in their 'flocks', straining at the chains which secured them to the magnificent Blackwood Bridge below. The ornately carved bridge spanned the great, vaulted chamber, linking the two sides of the Grand Central Tunnel. Beside it was the older Lufwood Bridge and numerous gantries; below, the flowing waters of this, the largest of Undertown's sewers.

Rook stood for a moment at the entrance to the chamber, feeling the warmth seep into his bones. No dripping water or leaks of any kind were permitted here; nothing that could harm the precious library that so many earth-scholars had died to establish and protect.

The words of the ageing librarian, Alquix Venvax, came back to Rook. "Remember, my lad," he would say, "this great library of ours represents just a fraction of the knowledge that lies out there in the Deepwoods. But it is precious. Never forget, Rook, that there are those who hate librarian academics and mistrust earth-scholarship; those who betrayed us and persecuted us, who blame us for stone-sickness and have forced us to seek refuge down here, far from the light of the sun. For every treatise produced, one librarian has suffered to write it, while another has died defending it. But we shall not give up. Librarian Knights elect will continue to travel to the Deepwoods, to gather invaluable information and increase our knowledge of the Edge. One day, my lad, it will be your turn."

Rook crept out of the tunnel and onto the Blackwood Bridge, keeping his head down behind the balustrade. There was someone on the adjacent bridge, which was unusual for so early in the morning - and though it was probably just a lugtroll there to clean, Rook didn't want to take any chances.

Unconsciously, yet unavoidably, he counted off the mooring winch-rings as he passed. It was something every under-librarian did automatically, for those who made an error about which buoyant lectern was at the end of which chain did not last long in the Great Storm Chamber.

Rook's experience led him unerringly to the seventeenth lectern, where he knew he'd find one treatise in particular. "A Study of Banderbears' Behaviour in Their Natural Habitat," it was called. Of all the countless leatherbound works in the library, this one was special; special for a very simple reason.

Rook Barkwater owed his life to the treatise, and he could never forget it.

Having checked that the lugtroll was definitely not spying on him, Rook gripped the winch-wheel and began turning it slowly round. Link by link, the chain wound its way round the central axle and the buoyant sumpwood lectern came lower. When it was at the same level as the mounting platform, Rook ratcheted the brake-lever across, and climbed aboard.

"Careful!" he whispered nervously, as the lectern dipped and swayed. He sat himself down on the bench and gripped the desk firmly. The last thing he wanted to do was keel over backwards and fall into the sluggish water of the underground river. At this time of day, there were no raft-hands to drag him out - and he was a hopeless swimmer.

The honey-coloured wood felt warm and silky to the touch. In the warm, dry conditions of the library chamber a well-seasoned piece of sumpwood timber was twice as light as air. However, as with all timbers of the first order of buoyant wood, the minutest shift in temperature or humidity could destabilize the timber - and so the sumpwood lecterns bobbed and jittered constantly, making sitting at one for any length of time an art in itself.

"Stop wobbling about, you stupid thing," Rook told the lectern sternly. He shifted his position on the bench. The violent lurching eased. "That's better," he said. "Now, just hold still while I ... "

Squinting into the bright spherical light above the lectern, Rook reached up and pulled a large, bound volume from the uppermost shelf of the floating lectern. It was the one about banderbears. As he laid the treatise out on the desk before him, he felt a familiar surge of excitement, tinged with just a hint of fear. He opened it up at random.

His head bowed forwards. His eyes narrowed in concentration. No longer was he sitting at a floating lectern, in a vaulted chamber, deep down underground ...

Instead, Rook was up there - in the open, in the vast, mysterious Deepwoods, with no walls, no tunnels, and no ceiling but the sky itself. The air was cool and filled with the sound of bird-cry and rodent-screech ...

He turned his attention to the treatise: "The yodelled communication cry," he read, "is meant for one specific banderbear alone. None, not even those who may be nearer, will answer a call intended for another. In this respect it is as if a name had been used. However, because, throughout my treatise-voyage, I never managed to get close enough to one to fully decipher the language, it is impossible to know for sure."

Rook looked up. He could hear in his head the banderbear yodel, almost as if he had once heard one for himself ...

"One matter appears certain. It seems to be impossible for any banderbear to deceive any other about his/her identity. It is perhaps this fact that makes banderbears such solitary animals. Since their individuality cannot come from anonymity in a crowd, it must come from isolation from that crowd."

"The further my travels take me ... "

Rook looked up from the neat script for a second time and stared into mid air. "The further my travels take me ... " The words thrilled him. How he would love to explore the endless Deepwoods for himself, to spend time with banderbears, to hear their plaintive yodelling by the light of the full moon ...

And then it struck him.

Of course!, he thought, and smiled bitterly. Today wasn't just any old day. It was the day of the Announcement Ceremony, when three apprentice librarians would be selected to complete their education far off in the Deepwoods, at Lake Landing.

Rook wanted so, so much to be selected himself - but he knew that, despite Alquix Venvax's encouraging words, this would never happen. He was a foundling, a nobody. He'd been discovered, lost and alone, wandering through the Deepwoods, by the great Varis Lodd - or so he'd been told. Varis, daughter of the High Librarian, Fenbrus Lodd, was the author of the treatise Rook now held in his hands.

If she hadn't been out in the Deepwoods studying banderbears, she would never have stumbled across the abandoned child with no real memories - apart from his name, and a recurring nightmare of slave-takers and wolves and ...

Yes, Rook Barkwater did indeed owe his life to this particular bound treatise.

Varis Lodd had brought him back to the sewers of Undertown along with her treatise on banderbears, and left him here to be raised by the librarian-scholars. The old librarian professor, Alquix Venvax, had befriended the sad, lonely little boy and done what he could, but Rook was well aware that an orphan with no family connections would never be more than an under-librarian. His lot was to remain down in the great library chamber, tending the buoyant lecterns and serving the professors and their apprentices.

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