Chapter Two: Library Fines
The Mage stalked through the night, one long leg slightly off rhythm, a limp he allayed with his long staff.
Trees along either side of the road, thick as hair on a werewolf. Only half as welcoming, which was really saying something. Matt took his time adopting a low hunch. Fryhel was not a place to walk tall outside of the royalty. In this dark land walking tall, smiling, those sort of things got you noticed.
So he pushed into his limp, and grimaced like he did not feel ready to explode with excitement. The mage always thought he missed his true calling as an international cat burglar, so he took extra pleasure in the criminal activities his current line of work presented. Also after being dead for five years, a walk was nice.
Two hundred yards farther, and his destination stood tall, a dark silhouette against the night sky. The Fryhel College of Magic, History, and Philosophy. A tall sprawling complex he knew from experience looked like a huge spider’s web from the sky. He would prefer to be parachuting in again, but he had burned his bridges with Stydran Aeronautics incorporated on that same mission.
He could do the flying himself, of course, but even in Otherworld a person flying through the air was noticeable.
He walked in with a smile at the human guard. The man held a long dark spear, he dropped across the door. “State your business, and ID.”
“Umm, Matt Naughtwood, and I’m here to steal some books from the Dewiderans.”
The guard laughed, his chainmail tinkling, as he leaned on his spear. Matt laughed with him.
“Really, man? I need to put something on the board,” the the guard said, a tear in his eye.
“I am, Matt Naughtwood, and I am here to steal books, two, from the Dewiderans. Their library.”
The smile dropped, and the guard gave a little headshake.
“Naughtwood, is dead, and the-.” A slight head turn, to glance toward the library door behind him, and Matt struck, his staffs heavy end catching the man’s blindside. Proper plans took time, but apparently despite his absence he was still remembered.
“Your report should reflect that I’m still around, knocking you guys out, and stealing your stuff. At ease, sir.” He went into the dark stone building. The hallway was a long one, lots of little outlets for things, Dewiderans in particular, to grab you from. Designed that way of course, but they had no idea he was in the building yet, so nothing grabbed him.
He didn’t bother with the act now. He was too close, so he practically danced into the library. None of the librarians were visible on the ground, and the floor was clean for once. He was used to sticking to it.
“Eileen!” he called to a librarian. She was five stories above him, her eight long legs spread out, black as the night. She clicked a response. They went way back, he had known her father, the Dewideran Lord Hrutia, when he reigned in western Cyok.
She knew perfectly well why he was here, but he had also helped bury the men who killed her father for sport. She even sounded a little happy to see him. As usual she didn’t drop down, just waved her one stumped leg, and pulled another book from her web bag to shelve.
He headed straight for the back of the large room, and called the magic. It pulsed into him, but he just let the smallest taste past his defenses. A few bits of his own, and he forced the spell into life.
A small golden rabbit, about the size of a coffee cup, appeared as an outline of pale light in front of him. “Get the book, get the book,” he whispered keeping the order simple.
Another librarian, this one old, and withered her dark body having lost its shine to the years, crept out. It had lurked behind the self-checkout, and it crawled on top of the old dark wood desk, too large for the perch by far, but it somehow still retained balance.
It lifted a small gold, and brass device to its fangs. They clicked a few times, and emitted a wet sound, like someone eating with their mouth open. ‘Probably something gross’.
“Tapioca.” The mage’s lip curled as he spoke.
“Card?” The device the librarian held said. The feedback was horrible, and the delay was something Matt knew he could fix. “Card?”
“One moment.” He started patting his coat pockets, and smiled, all the charm he could muster aimed at the spider. She leaned forward slowly, and tilted her head a little. More sounds into the little device.
“It’s a horrid type of pudding.”
“Here you go! Haha!” he said, rather than a real laugh. His Rabbit spirit was returning, two large tomes trailing behind it on a short leash of light. It was still at least fifty-feet off.
“Card?!” the librarian asked again. He produced a small piece of silver, embossed with a series of bumps on one side, and the name Geruth V. Clef, on the other.
“Here it is.” The spider took it, one long leg gripping for just a moment, before setting the card on a little brass plate. It leaned close to an old dusty green piece of glass. Another patron, an elderly man with a beard, got in line behind him.
More gurgling, and a moment later. “Clef is elf. You are human.”
“Hardly, Clef is a friend though, must have gotten mixed up.” Rabbit was moving slow, it’s legs weak. Matt had known he still wasn’t back to full strength, but he had expected the little construct to be stronger.
“Card, or exit.” she said, and he knew what sort of exit she was talking about. Dewiderans did not take well to time wasters.
He patted his pockets again, then turned to the man behind him. “Sorry, about this.”
“Hope you find that card,” the man said, one finger pointed upward. A dozen or so Dewiderans had gathered in the upper level, slowly lowering themselves toward him. Eileen had wisely taken her lunch break, he was happy to note.
“Got it,” Matt said, as the rabbit reached him. He stooped to pick up the books, double checking the spines. Both were right. One was on a leprechaun leader, and one was an old tome he doubted had even been opened, since he had placed it here himself. They never read what they collected, they just gathered the books.
The mage had a theory, that having no interest in reading the Dewiderans catalogued books to hunt. People with late fees, and book thieves faced a steep penalty. Most the valuable books were kept on the first floor for a reason, in Matt’s opinion. Some disagreed, but he had yet to meet anyone with a better theory. No Dewideran he asked would admit it, but the fact remained that they ate book thieves. Matt holding the books with no card made him a ‘thief’ in their eight-eyes.
“Can I go before you?” the man asked, apparently smarter than he looked. The mage sighed, shifting his hands in his jean pockets, brushing his real card several times. Finally he removed it, his was gold, and had his full name; Matthew Wade Roger Naughtwood on one side, and his ID code on the other. If he thought he would survive stalling any longer, he would have let the unlucky man go first.
“Sorry,” Matt muttered, as he passed the card to the spider’s outstretched leg. The ancient creature set the card on the little plate. The mage watched the eyes, waiting for the snap of realization. At the squint he drew back. Matt let the magic sink into him, the euphoric fire in his veins. A shake to stop the sensual nod that came with pulse of life. Another out of excitement.
No sound, he could not hear a thing around the blood pumping. As the spider reached his list of offenses on the small glass screen it’s eyes snapped wide.
He snapped his eyes shut, and blew up the Rabbit. Golden light filled the huge room, sending the man behind him to his knees. Dewiderans were raining down, giant bodies slamming into the ground. One landed on the blinded man, on ‘accident’ Matt was sure, as the creature tore into the poor bystander. Matt dived past him, long legs devouring the floor as he moved. As soon as the mage was positive of the trajectory, he let the magic go, putting on a burst of speed as he entered the tunnel. His steps sounded like drumbeats, as they echoed through the narrow hall.
The doorways were a blur, as he ran, the magic moving his legs like pistons. Long black limbs stuck out, halfway up the doorway, as if the spider waited on the wall. Matt leapt, inverting his body then as soon as his feet neared the ceiling he put on another burst of magic, and they connected. He ran along it, thankful the arachnids weren’t big on chandeliers. The legs were still inches away, snapping downward as he passed.
The door opened, the guard starting in slowly, as Matt jumped through. “I’d RUN!” the mage shouted, as he spun. As soon as his sneakers touched ground, and his knees ripped through the fashionable holes in his jeans a bit more, he launched upward. A spin, to face the ground, and he fired a blast of air from his hand. Off-balance, and rotating he flew higher. Each spin gave him another snapshot of the ground.
A Dewideran dragging the guard inside, blood splashing from the man’s shoulder.
Beautiful night sky.
First a few of the spiders stepping out.
Stars to spend your life rejoicing under.
The number of spiders growing, the great beasts clawing their way over each other.
Blue, and deep purples where the violet moon sat.
Waves of Dewiderans screaming their garbled language after the airborne mage.
Gods, and everything else he could die again just to spend another night under this blessed veil.
Focusing he balanced himself, dropping his staff. The smooth piece of redwood caught the sky, the amber jewel flaring. He stood on it, watching the mass scream under him. A few of the spiders were magic users, he could tell they were preparing spells.
He stowed the books in his jackets inner pocket, both of the large tomes shrinking as they entered the spelled space. Another leap upward, and he called his staff to him. Matt pulled the magic from the streams once more, feeling the lifeforce wash through his body in a cool wave.
The staff held in his left hand, he floated for just a moment, picking his target. Off center of the mass, toward the building he spotted it. The spider who had killed the bearded man. Matt held his index, and middle fingers out, tips barely knicking the edge of the redwood. He pulled back as if he held a bow, and the magic burst into reality, as he let a ghostly golden arrow fly.
It struck a little off target, tearing through the wrong spider. He didn’t draw again, just closed his eyes. Even with eyelids down, the explosion was brilliant. He gave it a moment, before he admired his spellwork. The fire spread from the arrow, golden streams in a wide circle; spinning, they razed the library’s brood.
The blaze quickly began to consume the building, and he cringed, a nervous giggle slipping. Robbing murderous library spiders was one thing, but burning down Fryhel’s College was an awkward moment. Lights snapped on in other parts of the large complex, so putting the fire out was a no go. The other mages, wizard, witches, warlocks, sorcerers, or whatever they identified as, wouldn’t be pleased with his tricks, even such a good one.
Tearing a new portal here could be traced, so he just leapt off his staff. A quick glance back at the burning building, before he put on a burst of speed. A golden star shooting across the night sky.
He was near the Aerie when he slowed again. Flying was the easy part, stopping was something he usually had trouble with. A few puffs of air, to slow him down, and then he just dropped the magic, focusing instead on being as weightless as possible. Skidding softly in a field he came to a halt still standing this time. The adrenaline, and the high, of the magic fading left him tired, memories of his last flight coursing through him.
He forced them away.
Matt tore another hole in the universe, this one looking out onto a river. He let it hang, impressed with the strength of his new staff. A little impressed with himself as well.
After he jumped through he took a deep breath, enjoying the cold evening air of Portland again. Drawing his phone from his pocket, he checked the bars. Full reception. 7 texts from Nice. He tried, but ended up clearing the inbox, unable to read them.
“Better life,” the mage told himself. He dialed her number, and was relieved when it began ringing. Apparently Irenail was a details kind of resurrectionist.
Okay, Chapter 2 up. Look for part 3 in a day, or two. Hope everything is great, and please feel free to let me know what you think of it.