Chapter One

With a simple glance at the aisles, he could tell which section he was in - History, philosophy, medicine, or even the simple educational material. He could walk through each department with his eyes closed and still direct someone to the exact volume they were looking for.

After working at the library for fifteen years, he had come to know the place like the back of his hand. He was very good at what he did, and he enjoyed it very much.

Shawn came to a stop in the middle of the one of the many long aisles. His eyes trailed up the stacks upon stacks of shelves, scanning over the many books that were stored there.

Like the library itself, many of the volumes were old. Several of them had a thick layer of dust from lack of use, while others were as clean as the desk in which he worked. Others were somewhere in between - dusty with a fresh set of fingerprints, as if someone picked up a book curiously, but placed it back when they realized it wasn't interesting.

"A-a-a-and here we go," he said as he found the particular book he was looking for and pulled it from the shelf. He gave the cover one quick dusting with his hand, before turning to the young woman who was following at his side. A smile brightened her face as the heavy book was placed in her hands.

"Thank you," she said, so excited she began flipping through the pages right there.

Shawn smiled awkwardly, trying to look past the title of the book. It sure was an immodest subject for someone her age to read about. At least he thought so. However, she wasn't the first young woman who came in looking for risqué fiction...

"I'll put that in your register, Crissy. Just go on ahead." There was no use making her fill out the necessary receipt when he already knew her information. She had been coming to this library for years and was always punctual when it came to returning her items.

"Thank you, Shawn. See you around!" she exclaimed, before turning and sprinting back out through the aisles. He couldn't help but smile and shake his head, before making his way back to his work station.

Today was a slow day, but then again, the library was never really a bustling place. It typically catered to the quiet, respectable type. Although occasionally an impatient gentleman would come in looking for a volume on mechanics, or a rowdy teenager would come looking for a book on alchemy lore, to try to learn all he could about the forbidden magic. On days like those, he was thankful for the people like Crissy. Even if her literature was questionable, at least she was the type of person who belonged in the library.

Ardania was getting more disagreeable people in town every day. It wouldn't surprise him if in ten years the quieter patrons were pushed out of the way by the more disgruntled people.

Shawn found his way through the maze of bookshelves back to the desk he knew so well. This was the place where he kept the records, where people came to him for directions and advice, and where most of his neatly kept studying was done.

He was a little put off to find that there was a young man waiting for him there, sitting right on his desk. Honestly, he couldn't have used one of the soft-cushioned chairs that were just waiting for someone to sit on them?

He lifted his gaze as soon as Shawn walked up to him, but he didn't make any motion to get up. He simply looked at him through his bangs while sucking on a sugary piece of candy and reading over the confidential library records.

He was someone Shawn had never seen before and something about his look was foreign. He wasn't dressed like any of the young men in Ardania and he had long hair that belonged more on a woman.

The librarian snatched the papers from him with as much politeness as he could muster. "If you don't mind, these papers are the property of St. Timothy's Library and not for your eyes."

"Sorry," the young man replied, but Shawn got the feeling that he wasn't really apologetic.

He made his way around the desk and shoved the papers into one of his drawers, all the while glaring at the person intruding on his desk. Still, the boy hadn't moved. He simply swiveled his body to follow the librarian.

"Can I help you with something?" Shawn asked, always keeping his calm and always talking to his patrons with respect. Even if they were no doubt one of the rowdy teenagers who were coming to read up on some inappropriate subject.

"Yes," the boy replied immediately, shifting his sugary treat between his teeth and cheek while he dug into the pocket of his pants. "I'm looking for a book." He pulled out a small folded piece of paper and read it over briefly, before handing it to the annoyed librarian.

Shawn looked over the fine script written on it. The History of Menar.

"Menar..." he repeated the word, trying to think where he had heard that name before. Sure, he had nearly read all the volumes in the library, but he couldn't for the life of him remember what it was from.

At least the boy was looking for a book on history, not on black magic or foolish charms to work on women.

"Do you have it?" his strange patron asked.

"Follow me."

The boy finally stood up from the desk. He was taller than Shawn by a few inches, but that was nothing strange. Most people were taller than Shawn.

He followed Shawn as he once again traversed through the long aisles. They passed only one other person on their way to the history section. The librarian followed the alphabetical order of the books, occasionally brushing aside the dust, while looking for the word "Menar" among the titles.

The boy waited patiently beside him, watching with a strange fascination as he scratched his back with his thumb. Shawn only met his gaze briefly, before turning back to the books. Something about this patron was certainly strange.

"Here we go," he said after a few minutes of searching, grabbing the boy's attention as it had inevitably wandered to the rest of the books. Shawn pulled the book from the shelf, and like he had done for Crissy earlier, he wiped the cover free of dust. A small smile came to the strange boy's lips as he took the book from him.

"Great. Thank you," he said, flipping the book around in his hands.

"If you'll follow me, I'll take down your information."

"Huh?" the boy asked, confused.

Shawn began the walk back to his desk, knowing the boy was following behind him. "I need to take down your information," he explained, "I can't just have people taking out books without any guarantee they'll bring them back. These books are valuable you know. Some of them are one of a kind, full of knowledge that you can't get anywhere else. And that volume there is older than you are!"

Once back at his desk, Shawn took out the necessary document he needed. The boy stood before his desk, holding the large book against his chest.

After writing the title of the book on the page, Shawn looked back up at the boy. "Name?"

"Name?" he repeated awkwardly.

"Yeah, your name. You have a name, don't you?"

"Of course!" he snapped, "It's...Fran."

"Fran?" Shawn repeated.

"Yeah. Just Fran."

He had the distinct feeling he was lying, but wrote the name down anyway. "Where abouts do you live?"

"Narrow Way," he answered almost flawlessly. "The address is 125. Fifth house on the right."

He jotted down the rest of the information, then took the piece of paper and folded it neatly. He looked at "Fran" straight in the eyes, scrutinizing his blank expression. "That'll be it," he said politely, despite his suspicions. "Enjoy your book, Fran."

He smiled again, the stick of his candy still sticking out between his lips. With a slight nod of his head, he turned to leave, but then he stopped suddenly and turned back to him, like he had forgotten something. "Oh," he said, before digging in his pocket again. Shawn watched as the boy pulled out a coin then dropped it in the librarian's hand.

"What's this?" he asked, looking over the piece of gold.

"A gift for your services."

"You don't have to pay for the book, as long as you bring it back on time."

"It's not for the book," he explained simply, "It's for you."

"You don't have to pay me. The library pays me."

"It's a gift. Keep it." He smiled pleasantly, his blank expression suddenly taking on a childish warmth.

"But-"

"Don't spend it," he said seriously despite his smile, "keep it."

Fran turned back again and this time walked all the way out of the library, leaving with the History of Menar held against his chest.

Shawn looked at the gift of gold. Shaking his head, he tucked the money into his coat pocket, then turned his attention back to his job.

Yes, Ardania was getting strange people indeed...


A/N: Thanks for reading! If you liked it, please feel free to leave me a review. All your thoughts are appreciated.