The Library

Jessentry surveyed the vast cavern. Pride swelled his chest as his silver eyes traveled over the mass of books he had managed to collect. He smirked, revealing sharp canines, and stepped down, into the cavern itself. Clawed hands clasped behind his back, he walked down the aisles, sensitive nose scenting the air. The scent of old books was heavy on the air, that warm, musty smell that made him growl in satisfaction.

He raised a clawed hand, running his thumb over the spine of one book bound in red leather. Blue scales flickered briefly over his hand and body, rising from beneath his human-looking flesh and dancing briefly on the surface of his pale skin before sinking below his flesh once more. The only patch of skin that was untouched by this strange, flickering display was the area surrounding his left eye and half of his left cheek. That area was always coated by blue scales of varying shades.

It was his dragon sign, that and the two silver horns that rose from his head, jutting upward from the spot just above his pointed ears. Silver hair, a shade paler than either his eyes or his horns, fell in a long curtain around his narrow face. Normally he kept it back in a ponytail, but for now it hung loose and wet from his bath a little while ago.

Another rumble of approval echoed from the pleased dragon when he reached the center of the vast underground library. Here, a still pool lay, its waters unfathomably deep and calm. As a dragon of the liquid element, such a pool was required for his comfort and for any magic that he wished to work.

But as Jessentry continued to survey his vast hoard, something nagged at him. He furrowed his brows, trying to recall what he might have forgotten. When the realization struck him, he cursed loudly, blue scales flickering rapidly over his pale skin.

"I need a Keeper."

Though a dragon's hoard was never complete- a dragon spent his entire immortal existence adding to the vast hoard-, once it reached decent size, said dragon sought out a Keeper to look after it. The chosen champion was, if mortal, made immortal and made to look after some of the more mundane details involved in caring for whatever the dragon's hoard might be- gold or silver or jewels or, in Jessentry's rather unusual case, books.

And choosing a Keeper was a rather tricky business, too, since a dragon's power was tied directly to the size and condition of his hoard. Not just anyone could be trusted to Keep such a grand treasure.

Jessentry scowled and sat at the edge of the pool, staring into its depths questioningly. He sighed, pushing up his glasses, which framed his silver eyes quite nicely. "If I collected something sensible like gold, it would be easy to find a goblin to Keep it; they're simple creatures, loyal and strong. But I collect…books. What kind of creature can I trust to Keep my hoard?" he asked the empty air.

Goblins had no respect for something as fragile or as intellectual as a book.

Vampires were notoriously uncooperative, no matter the hoard. Something about resenting being a dragon's pet….

Werewolves were unpredictable, and the Fey were pranksters with no respect for any power but their own.

And of the myriad of other magical creatures, Jessentry could honestly think of no species that he would trust to Keep his hoard. This was to be expected; among his own kind, he was considered unusual in that he placed his power in something so human as books. After all, humans were the bookmakers and the bookkeepers-

Wait; that was it! He could make a human his Keeper! Sure, they were generally noisome little creatures, not to mention destructive, but surely one of them must share his love of books. Surely one would prove worthy to Keep his hoard.

The trick was finding such a human.

Thankfully, he knew precisely where to begin his search.

A grin crossed his features, exposing his sharp fangs. The dragon rose easily, elegantly, cracking his knuckles as soon as he was on his feet. He then cracked his neck, holding out his hands and calling upon the power that swirled around and within him. A column of water rose in front of him, twisting and turning in on itself, shaping itself into a doorway. When the summoning was finished, he lowered his arms and examined the door.

Rushing water, ever flowing, made up its frame. The door itself- or, rather, the portal- was made of still black water, absorbing all light that hit it. Jessentry closed his eyes and brought his hands together, focusing on his desired destination.

His eyes snapped open. Determination shimmered in his gleaming silver eyes. Taking a breath, he allowed a small smile to touch his lips before he leapt, smoothly traveling through the dark doorway. Behind him, the watery construct collapsed, returning to the still pool from whence it came.

******

Manta's tongue peaked from between her lips, touching the corner of her mouth, teeth biting into it uncomfortably. She was standing on her tiptoes, trying to reach the book that seemed to taunt her, its spine just out of reach. "Come on," she growled, frustrated- not for the first time- with her diminutive height. Gods, this would be so much easier if she was just two inches taller, dammit!

But, alas, she remained a measly five foot nothing- no matter how much she cursed her height. If anything, the book seemed to shy further from her hand, mocking her. She growled again, ready to go fetch a stool, when a deep, accented voice asked, "Do you need help, little one?"

Her brown eyes narrowed, olive-toned cheeks flushed with angry heat. Whatever smartass had just called her 'little one' was so dead. Spinning on the balls of her feet, she opened her mouth wide, ready to let loose a stream of insults and obscenities so vile that the bastard's ears would melt, but her throat closed as soon as she actually saw who had addressed her.

Or, rather, 'what'.

It was a dragon. Correction, he was a dragon. A very tall dragon- made more so by the long, silver horns that rose from either side of his head. The words and the insults died in her mouth, and all she managed to utter was an oh-so-intelligent, "Ugnh?"

The dragon raised an elegant silver eyebrow. Mentally, Manta cringed. Before she could come up with something more intelligent, however, the dragon reached up- he didn't even have to stand on his toes, the jackass- and pulled the book from its place. He held it out to her. "Is this what you were looking for…?"

Huffing indignantly, she pursed her lips and reached for the book. "Manta. My name is Manta, and yes, I need that book."

As soon as her fingers touched the leather surface, though, the book was suddenly pulled away from her. He held it close to his face- not really out of her reach but it would be awkward to try and retrieve it. "This appears to be a book of poetry," he said casually, his silver eyes staring at her over the tops of his glasses.

Reaching for the book, Manta growled, "Yes. It's a book of poetry." To her immense irritation, he jerked it back and up, just out of her reach. Teeth clenched, she put her hands on her hips and stared up at him. "Do you plan on giving it to me anytime soon?"

He appeared to be studying the book out of the corner of his eye. "That depends…."

Rolling her eyes, she crossed her arms in front of her. "On what, exactly?" Dammit, what the hell was wrong with this guy? Was it normal for dragons to go around harassing young women?

"I am looking for someone. Perhaps, you would be willing to help me."

She hated dragons. Actually, magic in general was rather irritating, but she had never met any kind of creature as irritating as this dragon. The bastard. Still, she didn't exactly have much choice in the matter; she wanted that book. "Fine," she bit out, "Who are you looking for?"

He smirked. "Someone with a healthy respect for books."

Strike that. She really hated dragons. Why did magical creatures find it necessary to be so cryptic? Why couldn't they just speak plainly, like normal people?

Blue eyes focused on the leather-bound book in his hands. Gods-dammit all…. "Well, you're in a library. I can pretty confidently say that most of the people in here have at least a passing respect for books. Now, can I-?" She reached for the book again, standing on her tiptoes and leaning forward. Her fingers brushed against the leather- yes!- only to have it again snatched from her hands.

A long string of curses flitted through her mind, but outwardly she only glared at the dragon. Not that he was paying any attention to her. Instead, he had turned away and was examining the books and the bookshelves. "Perhaps, you are right, little one-" Oh, she was going to murder him, "-but I am looking for someone special. Someone with more than just a 'passing respect' for books. I need someone who values them as the treasures that they are." He looked at her out of the corner of one eye, silver eyebrow cocked. "You wouldn't happen to know anyone like that, now would you?"

Sighing, trying to calm herself, Manta shrugged. "Not really. Now, can I please have the book?" The 'please' should have made the request seem polite, civil. Instead, the sarcasm behind it was enough to choke her and to make the dragon raise his eyebrow again. What was with this guy and that eyebrow?

Finally, though, he held out the book to her. Smiling slightly, she took hold of it, her fingers curling comfortably around the leather binding. "Thank-" She tried to pull it free and found that his clawed fingers were holding it just as tightly as her own.

Oh yes. She was going to murder him. Slowly. First, she'd skin him, and she'd sell his scaly hide to the highest bidder. And then she'd- "Can I please have the damn book now?" she growled, giving the book an emphatic tug to emphasize her point.

Should she boil him in oil before or after skinning him? Probably after. Or maybe she could find a pack of werewolves to feed on him while he was still alive and screaming…?

He, however, didn't appear to notice her ire. He merely shrugged. "Do you mind if I ask what you need it for?"

"I want to read it!" Asshole.

With infuriating ease, he pulled the book free from her grasp, opening it to a random page. He studied her from behind the book. "Yes, but you seem to be going through rather a lot of trouble just for one little book."

She stopped and simply stood there, blinking, for several seconds. The bastard knew he was being an asshole?

On second thought, death was far too good for this guy. She was just going to torture him until she died. Yes, that seemed like the appropriate thing to do. Dragons were immortal, right?

"You," she said slowly, "Are. An. Asshole. Now, give me the damn book!"

"You seem to like cursing a lot," he noted.

"And you seem really annoying," she bit back, "Can I have the book now?"

He looked at the book, then at her. "No," he said slowly, drawing the syllable out, "This seems like an interesting book. I always did like poetry…."

Her left eye was twitching. She could feel it. Twitch. Twitch. Twitch-twitch-twitch. The gods must hate her; that was the only explanation for all of the crap she was being put through. She put her head in her hands, staring at the floor through her parted fingers. "I just wanted a book, gods-dammit. Was that really so much to ask?"

"There are other books," he told her solemnly. She glared up at him through the crack in her fingers.

"Yes. But I wanted that book."

He shrugged. "Life is full of little disappointments."

She was either going to start screaming or crying. She hadn't quite decided yet. Instead, she took a deep breath and turned around, away from the infuriatingly tall, silver-haired dragon. Scanning the titles, she finally found another book of poetry and pulled it from its place. Yes, that one would do quite nicely…even if the other one was better….

"What did you find?" he asked innocently.

"Another book," she ground out, spinning around. She clutched the chosen book tightly to her chest, fingers curled protectively around the spine.

"May I see?"

"No!"

And with that, she pushed past him and made her way to the reading room. Settling into her favorite chair, she sighed contentedly. She opened the book and began reading one of the poems. Already she could feel her muscles loosening, and a smile tugged at her lips, replacing the harsh scowl that had previously twisted her features.

Lovingly, she ran her fingers over the edge of the pages even as her blue eyes traveled hungrily over the words, devouring them greedily. The world disappeared around her as she lost herself in the words, lost herself to the poet's imagery.

A sigh escaped her as she sank deeper into the chair and deeper into the poet's world, oblivious to the world around her.

*****

From across the room, hidden partly by the bookshelves, Jessentry watched girl.

Manta.

He leaned down and scented the book. Though she had only touched it for a few moments, her scent was still clear. He closed his eyes, savoring the scent. She smelled of ale and cigar smoke- perhaps she worked in a tavern?-, but he could also smell mint tea and honey. It was an odd combination, but pleasant nonetheless. Slowly, he opened his eyes, continuing his study.

Her long brown hair was swept back in a braid, and now that he wasn't pestering her, her blue eyes had a nice warmth to them that the dragon could not help but admire. She was short, but not precisely small. Her hips and breasts were full, and her face had a nice roundness to it.

And, best of all, in addition to all of the other scents that hung about her, she smelled of books. At first, he had thought that it was simply his surroundings, but no. Now he was sure; she smelled of books.

For a moment, his eyes glimmered brightly, magic shining behind the silver irises. Blue scales flickered across his face and arms rapidly, and a forked tongue slipped from his mouth to wet his upper lip.

Manta, he considered, allowing the name to roll around his mind. He liked the way her name sounded. He liked the way it felt as it rolled off his tongue- like a kiss. He looked down at the book that he had 'stolen' from her. A smile touched his features- his upper lip pulled upward just enough to reveal his fangs.

He had just found his Keeper. And oh-so-much more.

He smirked. "I'll see you again, little one. Very soon, if I have anything to say about it."

--

AN: Alright, I just want to make this clear: THIS IS NOT GOING TO BE AN ACTUAL STORY. Instead, I plan to make a collection of related oneshots between Jessentry and Manta. I can't promise that the oneshots will be in order. I can't even promise that there will be any sort of cohesive plot to link them together. (In fact, I can almost promise that there won't be.) I'm starting another long story soon, but I'm not going to be uploading it to fictionpress, but I didn't want to just...abandon my page altogether. Hence, the related oneshots. This way I'm still uploading and I have a nice side story to distract myself from my more serious work.

Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed this oneshot. More should come soon, though I don't know how often or how regularly I'll be able to update. Reviews might help inspire me.... :)

-Anne