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Fantasy Romance Funny

Sarah Sauron, the golden-haired object of his inflamed ardor, approached Martin and abruptly handed him a Post-it Note and an index card. “You need to find this book, Martin, and make sure this number matches it and put it back in the card catalogue.”

She was walking away with a succulent sway, before he could comprehend her request.

So he jumped to his feet and pursued her, his ‘sweet’, across the carpeted domain.

He was just within reach, of this delicate peach… when he was intercepted by another—librarian.

“Martin,” she declared. It was Forestine, an older woman with green hair, tied in bunches above her head like a floret of broccoli. “What are you doing?”

I—I don’t know. I think I’m supposed to find a book,” Martin replied.

She had been assigned the duty of keeping him occupied at-all-times, and as such, his attempts to woo Sarah, the librarian’s assistant, had proved futile and frustrating.

Forestine snatched the card out of his hand and scanned it. Frowning, she returned the card to Martin and pointed toward an obscure darkened hallway at the opposite end of the university library. “You may find what you’re looking for in the repository.”

“And that’s…”

“Yes, that way.”

He crossed the well-lit library wondering why he’d never seen or heard of the repository before, and entered the canted hallway. It had one door, and Martin felt dizzy as soon as he crossed the threshold. It arrested his progress in a matter of moments, forcing him to stop and lean against the wall. A wall, he realized, that was full of books. They had a distinctive odor, impossible to describe, one might well call it ‘age.’ The dizzy spell gone, he stepped from the hallway into a main hall: a massive rotunda carpeted in multiple layers of thick Persian rugs of differing styles, patterns and sizes.

“Can I hawp you?” It was more of a squawk than a question.

He turned to face the speaker. She was very tall, thin, toothy and severely dressed, even for a funeral. After a series of garbled syllables, Martin held the index card up and said, “I’m looking for this.”

She leaned over him and snatched the note out of his other hand, then straightened to her full 8-foot height and held the note with two fingers in her outstretched hand. She pursed her beaklike lips and looked down at him out of one eye. “Seems like we have a special request then, don’t we?”

Martin didn’t know, and hadn’t read the note himself. He was visibly awed by his surroundings: a vast, circular room, many stories high, stacked with millions of books. Massive primitive chandeliers adorned with countless candles shed an abundance of light on the multitude of hardbound book-lined shelves.

“Oh yes it is.” She ripped the note into smaller and smaller pieces. “That’s why they sent you, a neophyte.” She allowed the shreds of paper to sprinkle to the carpet. They blended right in. “Allow me,” she said, stepping aside to reveal an ancient wrought-iron, cage-type elevator. She held the door open for Martin, then followed him in, carefully closing the outer cage door and then the inner scissor-type gate. “Are you ready?”

He nodded and grabbed a handrail just in case. She moved a lever near the door and the elevator teetered slowly around the circular room and stopped at a point one-hundred-and-eighty degrees in opposition to their previous position. “Here we are,” she said, opening the doors again.

“But…” Martin started to protest.

“Yes?”

Her inquisitive gaze took him by surprise. He looked at the room, then at the eight-foot librarian, then the elevator. It looked like it had been made in the fourth century, by angry druids. It was rickety too. “How does that, contraption—help us find the book?”

“Are you a Christian?” The woman asked him. “Best not to question the wisdom of the Druids then, is it?”

He never got a chance to reply before the discussion had moved on. “What you’re looking for is a very rare and sacred book.”

“It is?” Martin whispered, wide-eyed.

“Well of course.” The bird-woman bopped him on the shoulder. “That’s why you’re here, dummy. Let’s see what you’re looking for.” She snatched the index card from Martin’s hand, scanned it and whistled. “You sure about this?”

Martin shook his head. “No.”

“This is no ordinary book we’re tracking down, Mister,” she said.

“It isn’t?” He had read the title but forgotten it as soon as he read it. Something about lizards and flagons. He wasn’t sure what a flagon was, but supposed he was about to find out. The librarian ushered him into another elevator and closed the doors again. Martin was startled to find himself going up, by himself, clutching the bars of the elevator as it rattled, creaked and jerked its way up alongside the wall of books. He dropped to all fours and had flattened himself to the floor by the time the elevator ground to a shuddering halt, three stories above the Persian carpeting. A momentary gout of steam erupted from a vent in the wall beside his head before subsiding. (Granted, his head was on the floor, but that was small consolation.)

“Mar-tin!” The voice of the bird-like librarian wafted up to him. “Are you on the right shelf?”

“I don’t know,” he called down to her, peering over the edge of the cage. “How would I know?”

“Wellllllahhh. What’s on the shelf in front of youuuuuu?” She trilled.

He managed to turn till he was facing the books, a difficult task while keeping oneself plastered to the floor. Up close, the books were large, magnificent volumes with heavily embossed, golden titles, like, ‘Alternate Reality, Volume 11’; ‘Abel’s Revenge, and Other Lost Books of the Bible’. Next to that? ‘Arks, A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Boating, For Animal-Lovers’…

“Do you see anything with the word ‘complete’ on it?” She asked, and then, Martin could have sworn, she clucked impatiently.

The elevator clanked and rose in a series of jerks and sustained wobbles. Martin hugged the floor again and did some fervent deal-making with his version of the deity, as the cage swayed, rattled and bumped, ever closer to the ceiling.

“Mar-TIN? Whataya seehing nowwow?”

“A Complete Autobiographical Ass…”

“What was that again?” Came ringing up to his cage near the ceiling.

He started over, and said, “I said, ‘A Complete Autobiographical Assay of All (Known) Lizards, Wizards, Dragons and Flagons.”

“And what’s the catalogue number?” She hooted.

“One-zero-zero-zero-one, point, zero-zero-four, and a half.”

“Are you sure?”

“Am I shoo…are you kidding me? You wanna come up here and read it yourself?” It was an implausible number, but there was nothing wrong with his vision and the chandeliers rose and descended with the ‘book cage.’ So there was no mistaking it.

“What about the letters?”

“What letters…” Martin spoke before looking, and then he looked closer. There should have been three letters after the number, the beginning of the author’s last name. Forgetting for a moment his precarious perch, Martin examined the book more closely, sliding it partway out of its slot, there was no author’s name on the cover either and he slid it back into place. “There’s no letters, ma’am.”

“Not even UNK?” she honked, “ANON or ANO?”

“Nope,” he called down. He was much more comfortable now, having figured out that the cage was designed to be sat in, with the legs dangling from the entrance that faced the bookshelf. Handrails, a safety strap, pillows and the shape of the floor should have made this obvious to him much sooner.

“You’re sure?”

“Yup.”

“Thank youuu,” she replied. “Would you like to come down now?”

He was surprised to learn that the task was done. “Uh, yes. Get me down, please.” He realized he was in the middle of an implausible event, tugged his phone out of his pocket and took some pictures. Who would believe this without evidence? He thought. He tried to take a video of the cage’s death-defying descent, but the phone turned itself off, inexplicably.

When the elevator returned to ground level, the long-necked librarian graciously thanked Martin for his non-magical assistance in locating the long-lost book, and admonished him to keep quiet about his knowledge of the Dewey decimal system, at the very least.

“And at the very most?”

“At the very most you must use your head, Martin.”

He felt a reoccurrence of that queasy feeling when he crossed the threshold and re-entered the darkened hallway. He made his way to the librarian’s desk. Forestine’s eyes doubled in size when she saw him. “Surprised to see me?” He asked her.

“I thought it would take a little longer, that’s all.” She ignored him from that point on so he looked around and caught the eye of the younger woman, Sarah, his reason for being there, and beckoned her over while pulling his phone from his pocket.

“You wouldn’t believe where I’ve been today, Sarah, you really wouldn’t, except that I have proof.” He tapped the screen to show her the evidence, and he and the phone disappeared in a puff of blue smoke.

“Oh my God” the young woman gasped as she retreated. “What—what happened? Is he dead?”

“No, he’s just back in the Libranarium,” Forestine said without looking up. “What a fool. All he did was find the book, what he should’ve done was open it.”

“Why, what was the message in the book?”

“I can’t tell you that, sweetie. That’s magic. If you don’t mind, I’ve got work to do.”

When she was alone, Forestine muttered the message that Martin should have gotten. ‘Don’t flirt with the Wizard’s daughter.’

November 08, 2023 15:26

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8 comments

Michał Przywara
21:41 Nov 09, 2023

A very whimsical take on the prompt! Some of the prose, especially at the beginning, is quite lyrical too. Martin's in over his head and doesn't really know what he's doing or why, but that all makes sense as he's quite distracted by love. Though maybe he should have been leery of anyone named Sauron :) Stylewise, a sudden shift in POV, like when he takes his phone out to show his proof, is a risk. It can be very jarring for a reader to suddenly lose the POV character and have another one instead. However, something about this case works...

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Ken Cartisano
16:25 Nov 10, 2023

Hey Michal, Thanks very much for reading my story and for your feedback. The Sauron reference was one of the last edits I made before posting (adding it. It probably wasn't necessary, or wise. A cheap trick.) In the paragraph you refer to where he takes his phone out of his pocket, that starts with: He was surprised to learn that the task was done. I'm not eager to disagree with your comment about the change in POV there, but I don't understand it either. Could you have meant tense? I have trouble with tenses, not POV. What I did notice ...

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Michał Przywara
21:37 Nov 10, 2023

What I meant with the POV shift is: the whole story feels like 3rd person limited to Martin, but that paragraph is the last one where we follow Martin around. After that, he's gone, and suddenly we're following Forestine (the last line is even a private musing). So perhaps the POV was omniscient after all. My point was, a shift like that (where it feels limited, but then suddenly we're on a different character, so it turns out our expectation wasn't quite right) can be jarring. However, I think in this piece it works, as it fits the sudden d...

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Ken Cartisano
01:45 Nov 11, 2023

Hey there Michal, Well I'll be a dad-burned reptilian scallywag. I didn't even know there was such a thing as third-person limited POV. So, it appears I know even less about POV's than I do about tenses. (Which is also not very much.) I didn't think your comment was overly critical, it was perfectly positive. I just didn't understand it. Having read up on it a little, I understand what you're saying now, and appreciate your well-intentioned comments. Apparently, you have a much clearer understanding of POV's than I do. I think there's sti...

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Michał Przywara
00:47 Nov 13, 2023

Oh definitely :) Looking forward to future stories!

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Danie Holland
12:40 Nov 15, 2023

Ken, I loved this story. You really got me at the end. I'm grinning ear to ear. You have such sassy commentary. It's enjoyable to read. I love the way you put him in essentially a bird cage and then, the woman guiding him had a very "bird-like" demeanor. From her squawking to her appearance. Fitting! This makes no sense at all, but why do I feel that it's "just right" for someone who works in a fantastical library to be birdlike. Make it make sense, why it makes sense. An odd observation but I observe what I observe. Banter I very much li...

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Ken Cartisano
22:13 Nov 16, 2023

Aye. Glad you liked it Danie. You must be a bad influence on me, as I inserted a limerick four lines into the story. I've never done that before -- hope I never do it again. I don't believe limericks win awards. My fave part of the story was the book titles, that he sees. I really should've given more thought to them but, I remember thinking as I wrote it that I should put the story somewhere where I could change those book titles every now and then. It's a weird pointless idea. Hope you've posted something this week. I'm way behind on ...

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Danie Holland
22:19 Nov 16, 2023

I knew there was something that worked about this one for me. Sometimes a limerick is for fun. And sometimes to have fun is also a type of winning. Happy to be a bad influence on you. *Sticks out tongue.* At the same time. Couldn’t get your voice out of my head for my latest story. “Make it neater, make it cleaner,” those kinds of things. Maybe I improved and can make you proud. Maybe I didn’t and won’t! Lmao I’m still getting caught up on stories as well!!! Fell behind 😭

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