A Whimsical Adventure in Jasper Hallow

Submitted into Contest #176 in response to: Set your story in a magical bookshop.... view prompt

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Fantasy Bedtime

Under the midnight rainshower, a runaway evenscesed from the stonecold walls of the medieval castle, deep into the Anthraxian Woods. The runaway slipped her royal blonde locks into her hooded tunic. She crunched through dead leaves and roamed past trees resembling upside-down spiders. Moonlight and biolumincensant toadstools glowed, guiding her deeper into the woods. Unicorns trotted past wafting the scent of roses and the songs of the bullfrogs croaked. She was close. Through the break in the terrain was a tea green lake flooded with earthy scents. It welcomed you to the tiny village planted behind it. Jasper Hallow. 

She found it. 

It was a bustling village lined with thatched cottages of pubs and shops. Fairy lights hung from the popular brewery, Goblin’s Grin, a cacophony of pub loafers whispering tales from drunken lips. At the far end of the lane, where echos ricocheted grew a disturbingly large oak tree. Casual onlookers categorized it as ordinary with its heavy black leaves and crimson bark but when peeking closely, a six paned window displayed through the bark like a portrait with flickering lights winking from the inside like summer fireflies. Inside, the tree trunk door swallowed you into a dimension warp. It was a healthy sized book shop. However, this was a magical bookshop. Shelves compiled the shop lined with books in all the colors of the rainbow and heavens, books in divergent sizes as miniature as a thimble to the growth of an elephant’s ear. Thunderclouds bellowed above near the back raining down puddles that evaporated into books. Thick books, old books, new books, books of all wonders, piped out steam, shook wildly as you passed by, and even tooted strong aromas. Tonight’s scent was honey and primrose. Paper lanterns floated around the shop from pages of old books that lost their covers. 

The shop owner was on the second story loft reading from her purple rocking chair, wearing square shaped spectacles. She gazed upwards from her reading material. “The shop’s open, take all the time you need.” she smiled returning to her book as if she were never disturbed. 

One of these books has to break the curse. The runaway thought. 

A symphony of bubbles led the runaway to the center of the shop on a crescent moon shaped carpet. The bubbles popped above a book displayed on a podium made from corals and shells. The runaway brushed aside the residue of sand over its cover before flicking it open with the sound of a crack. Water damage littered the pages in soft mildew pink. The pages smelled of seaweed and basalt. They were blank on the inside. Read underwater only. The disclaimer was etched on the spine near the Atlantis crest branded on the top. It was a book about the fantastic underwater city. But it wouldn’t break the spell. The runaway closed the book and followed her nose to the scent of smoke leading to a book covered in ruby colored dragon scales. The pages were hot to the touch even through her leather gloves. Cover to cover was filled with research of medieval dragonology but smoke billowing from every page turn made her eyes water. Paper butterflies tickled her ears distracting her from the book. She giggled at their invitation as they floated over to a potted maple tree raked in leathery green leaves coaxed in words. She began to read some of them. There were probably over 4,000! Each leaf produced words for different cooking recipes. She plucked off one that caught her senses. It was a brown leaf covered in tree sap that read the recipe for acorn pancakes while wafting the scent of butter and sugarcane. 

I still need to find a spell. She thought. 

The shadows crept into the edge of the shop where a vicious scratching sounded. In a dimly lit corner, an orange tawny with a dangling silver collar quarreled with the historic linens of a mummy dead on display in an opened stone coffin. She tisked the cat away with a wave of her hand. Carefully readjusting the ancient cloth to its original form she saw the remains of handwriting. Studying hieroglyphs was a past hobby that she’d been passionate about. It was clear enough to decipher. In fact, it was the diary entries of this human dating decades back before the date of his death. Sweet woody smells from a crackling fireplace entranced the runaway to the west side of the shop where there seemed to be a traditional library. There was a velvet long back chair to the edge of a tall mahogany shelf with ordinary looking books. Fiction said a calligraphy painted poster on an easel. A small inscription was written below the title. “The story and the characters from the book you complete will awaken into your own livelihood.” She used a fingertip to brush the titles stitched on the spines. Reading each and every one she stopped on a title labeled “The Handsome Lover.” Her finger shook with anticipation. 

Not today. She thought letting it go with a heavy sigh. 

And just when she thought it was too late. A wicked book lay opened under the skylight with star beams illuminating it like a halo. It had hundreds of ribboned bookmarks. The shop owner grinned while spying on her customer through her floorboard cracks. “Are you here for a spell?” The shop owner asked while she snaked her hand down the iron staircase. “I need to break a curse. Can you help me?” The runaway rustled into her pants pocket and tossed the shop owner a tethered coin pouch. It was caught with a satisfying clank that pleased the owner greatly. “Stand behind the spell book. It only works if a real witch recites the spell. Now tell me, child, what is the curse to which has been bestowed upon you?” The runaway hesitated twirling her thumbs together. Clover looked to her then to her owner. “I’ll tell you. But thou mustn’t judge.” The runaway whispered gently into the shop owner’s ear. Her eyes widened. For a witch, she’d heard it all, but this was iniquitous.” 

The sun rised over the tea green lake. The rays of the sun ignited life into the Anthraxian forest. The runaway hoisted herself through wide muscular branches but halted to glance back once more to reminisce on Jasper Hallow. The oak tree was nothing but a speck no greater than a fairy’s eye. But something about that shop made her whimsical adventure something she’d look forward to again and again.

December 17, 2022 03:17

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2 comments

Anna E. Walters
14:57 Dec 23, 2022

Hi Indy, You paint a wonderfully vivid picture of this world. Your magical bookstore is a feast for the senses and a place that could provide a springboard for many more stories. I'm intrigued by the fact that your main character would look forward to visiting "again and again". This could be the start of a novel! One suggestion: You could break out the dialogue lines in the second-to-last paragraph, to make it immediately clear who is speaking. Thanks for an imaginative story! I look forward to reading more of your work. (Critique Circle...

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Wendy Kaminski
20:11 Dec 18, 2022

That ending, hah! So it's a curse she's going to purposefully get repeatedly? :) It does beg the question...! Terrific, interesting and very engaging story! :)

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