"Urguld, my friend," breathed Shada, "You and I have wandered the streets of Old Gateway a year now, correct?"
"A year and two weeks," he said. "I added it up yesterday."
"So," Shada continued, "I take it you know the layout of the streets pretty well by now, yes?"
Urguld nodded. He was getting nervous. Shada was stalling his answer. He always stalled his answers when he knew they would upset Urguld.
"We're headed," Shada said. "Due South down old Mort Ave.. We've just crossed Sonata Drive, and we plan to walk three more blocks and enter the second building on the left. You can figure that out, can't you?"
Urguld screwed up his ugly face and went through the map in his head. He'd memorized it when he'd first been banished. Then he'd eaten it. He'd been very hungry at the time. His brain zoomed down the alleys and drives, passing the familiar yards and shop windows. No...
Urguld stopped short.
"But, but Shada!" he protested. "We can't go to the library! That's off limits, that is."
Shada, exasperated, turned around and faced his companion across the dark sidewalk. (At this moment, a human plowed into him, attempted to mug him, but got a little perturbed by his horns, claws, and bat-like ears, and instead fled into the night after mumbling a few apologetic words. Shada didn't even blink.)
"Come on, Urguld. You love books, remember? Think about all that fiber."
"I'm trying to, 'cept images of the Librarian keep popping up!"
"He won't hurt us this time," said Shada confidently. In his pocket, he patted the journal. But Urguld wouldn't hear any of it.
"Shada, that gargoyle's the reason I've got half a left ear missing." Urguld flinched as bad memories flooded him. "Tore it off my first night in town. I was going through the botany books, eating my fill, when that snotrag comes up behind me and… He told me he hated other monsters 'encroaching on his territory.'"
"Unless," said Shada slowly, careful to make eye contact with Urguld. "Unless they have something of value. Which we have. Something he'll find extremely precious, enough for him to negotiate."
"It's that journal, isn't it? The one our dinner wrote."
"Yes, it is the journal," said Shada. There were a few moments pause, and Shada gazed roofward. "The sun will rise soon. We should get going. It is common knowledge the Librarian hates doing any business during the day."
"He doesn't do business, Shada," Urguld grumbled. Crossing his long, apelike arms. "He just beats up any monster comes to the library."
"Good point. But we'll be fine."
Shada made to walk, but Urguld didn't follow.
"Urguld. We are continuing."
But Urguld had planted his feet resolutely.
"Why do you want to talk to him anyway?"
"I will explain, but only if you continue to walk."
Urguld glared at Shada. So Shada glared right back, and for one full minute, the monsters bore a hole in each other's gaze. Finally, Urguld gave in. The monsters continued.
"But I'm not going through those doors."
"Fair enough. I can always throw you through the windows. Now I shall explain. The Librarian wasn't always the jerk he is today. He's just been extremyl bitter since he was banished. He was quite well off in the Shadow World, you know. He had himself everything: a family, an estate, good contacts, a magnificent library…"
"He must've been well fed," commented Urguld.
"Someday," he said as they crossed the street. "You will learn the other, finer functions of books. While I suppose he enjoyed munching on them occasionally, I'm positive he's read them. That monster has spent decades roaming the earth, and the last one in a library, the greatest channel of information. He may be dangerous, but he's a wealth of data. And a valuable ally."
"I think he likes being an enemy." Urguld bitterly rubbed his ear. It had long since healed, but memory sent a stinging pain through the skin.
"Now, this journal," Shada said with relish, "was quite a find. Quite a find indeed. That woman we ate went through a lot of trouble to find detailed information concerning monsters. More than most monsters even know."
"Like… how to kill us?"
"Yes. How to kill all of us."
Urguld thought about it. He tried to think like Shada. Where was his companion going with this? He was at a loss and close to saying so when it hit him like a brick.
"Including…" he was getting excited now, almost too excited to speak. "In-including the one that sent us here?"
"Yes," said Shada. They drew close to an orange streetlight and Shada withdrew the handsome black volime from the pocket of his overcoat. He flipped it open. "See this page? She wrote about Iscolerus himself."
Urguld's eyes widened.
"She didn't… Let me see that!"
"Dammit," said Urguld, squinting at the page. "I can't read. But it does say how to kill him? I thought that was impossible."
"It does hint at his weaknesses, however vaguely, yes."
"Then why'd we eat the girl?" Urguld clutched his body, horrified. "She could have helped us, right."
"And pierced us full of silver! Remember. Humans don't help monsters. They just don't. Besides, if she really knew how to kill Iscolerus, she could have killed us too. We're safer going to the Librarian."
"Oh, yes, because the Librarian's got no notion at all of how to kill us."
Shada tucked the journal away and picked up the pace.
"The Librarian won't touch silver, we'll be two against one, and," Shada emphasized this part, "and once we show him a way back to his wealth, family, and candy shop of a life, I think we'll find he'll be most helpful."
"I still can't believe you let me eat the girl."
"Trust me. It was the best option. We've got all her valuable knowledge right here." Shada patted the journal. "She was of no more use."
Urguld grumbled to himself as he the pair crossed the next block, cursing his digestive organs, the damned things, for dissolving away the mind that had possibly found Iscolerus's weak spot.
And then they stopped, for they had arrived.
The Public Library was big, a three-story cathedral of books. By day, it was filled with quiet whispers, crinkling pages, and the soft padding of the librarian's (the human kind) loafers on worn carpet. If you stood in the center of the first floor, you could stare straight up into the grand dome that rose into the sky like a wise, bald head. There was a big plaque on the front door honoring a benefactor of decades ago, one James A. Mortimer, philanthropist at large.
"Well, Urguld. What will it be?"
There was a few seconds' pause.
"You go first," said Urguld stiffly.
Thanks for reading. Thanks for the feeback.
Kiyura, I'm glad you're enjoying this so much, especially the random digression, which I was a bit worried about.
Lavada, I take that as high praise. I'm a Pratchett fan. Not of all of his books, but I've enjoyed a lot of his work (Good Omens, The Amazing Maurice, Guards! Guards!.)Yeah, I know that I now also have a character called the Librarian, but that was kind of by accident. He's been in my head since before I stumbled across Pratchett, and he's monster through and through. Not a drop of orangatang blood in him. And he hates bananas.
E. M. Grinlord