Throughout the ages, heroes have traveled many paths in multiple kingdoms. The strength of such heroes cannot only be measured by the danger they face. Their true strength comes from their integrity and passion for their cause.
Mallory drove her Volvo Heritage into the parking lot of the building that stood as sanctuary for her from the time she began to understand the messages hidden inside. However, the shift in the wind told her she would have a battle on her hands today.
"I thought we were going to shop for accents for your sword and then go to the brewery for lunch," Athena mentioned. "What are we doing at the library?"
Mallory tossed a letter to Athena, "I returned that book. I am an honorable patron. I would never let a book lapse and yet, they wrote me saying it is overdue. We need to address this first."
"Sure," Athena thought the explanation was rather serious for basically running an errand, "It's probably an oversight."
As they entered the building, an attractive woman with the slightest bit of silver streaking her hair smiled at them. She was organizing a stack of books from the children's section and softly said, "Hi Mallory. Lovely to see you on a Friday."
Mallory leaned over to Athena and quickly whispered, "We'll try a diplomatic approach first."
"Of course," Athena agreed.
Mallory held out the letter, "Mrs. Lenny, I received this letter and I am convinced that it's a mistake."
"Let me see. Maybe it was checked in after this letter went out," Mrs. Lenny started a search on the computer, "Hmm, I don't see it. Let me look at your borrowed history."
Mallory gave Mrs. Lenny her library card. Mrs. Lenny continued her search and then showed Mallory the screen, "It looks like you returned a few books when this one was due but it's not here."
Athena saw the dates on the screen, "That was around the time of mid-terms. Didn't you have a ton of books from the campus library too?"
Mallory's eyes went wide with the realization of her likely mistake, "No."
"Thanks Mrs. Lenny. I'll return with your book in hand, I promise," Mallory declared and urged Athena to follow her.
"We need to go to our college library today. I have to get that book back and restore my reputation with the library."
“I think your reputation is fine. I’m pretty sure the librarians are just pleased to have people walk through the doors,” Athena assured.
"It should be easy enough. I’ll explain my mistake. We can do this,” Mallory said but hesitation crept into her words, “I just hope he's not working there today."
"My nemesis," Mallory declared.
Inside Palomar Community College’s library, Athena hoped they weren't going to take all morning to scope out the library from behind the history section, "I think we're safe."
"Ah, you don't know him. He's cagey," Mallory whispered. She continued to look around and then said, "It's clear. We should move now."
"Good," Athena agreed.
Mallory dragged Athena past three stacks of books, trying to find help from a librarian. Then they turned a corner and ran into a young man about their age, dressed in jeans and a tailored shirt. The most unusual detail of his appearance was the beard and mustache that looked like a style from Middle Earth. Also, he addressed them with a bow as he said, "My Lady."
Mallory groaned, "Hi Kevin."
"Ah, fair maiden, you have no need to address me by my name known to Muggles. Please address me by my Faire name," Kevin said.
"Do I have to?" Mallory winced.
Kevin took her hand, "It would please me so."
Mallory rolled her eyes as she yanked back her hand, "Good day Brainard, Wrangler of Dragons."
"Good day to you, Warrior Mal, Protector of the Sacred Scrolls. And who is your lovely companion?” Kevin asked.
“This is Athena.”
Kevin gasped and bowed again, “You brought a deity with you. My apologies goddess, I had no idea.”
Mallory yanked on his arm, “Stop it! Get up. We’re not playing a game right now. Her name is actually Athena.”
“I’m happy with the title of goddess,” Athena mumbled to Mallory.
“What service can I provide you lovely ladies with this fine day?” Kevin asked.
Mallory cringed as she heard Athena snickering next to her. "We're fine Kevin, I mean Brainard. We have work to do."
"Work like finding a certain missing book?" he asked.
Mallory glared at him, "What do you know?"
“I know you returned a tower of books that included an additional publication from the Escondido Library. I made this discovery when I was cataloging the returns. I rescued said publication in the hopes of winning your favor,” Kevin denoted.
"If you knew it was my book from the city library, then why didn't you give it back to me?" Mallory asked.
"Actually, I attempted to my Lady," Kevin began, "Do you remember two weeks ago, you came in looking for that book on hexes? And I said, 'An interesting thing happened.'"
"And I cut you off because I had more important things to deal with than your account of your last Dungeons and Dragons meeting."
"One, I was going to mention the book then and two, I think you would find our meetings thrilling."
"Ugh, fine. You could have tried harder," Mallory argued.
"Tried harder when you were holding a book on hexes?" Athena pointed out, "Maybe it was safer to leave you alone that day."
"Then last week," Kevin continued, "I offered to buy you lunch and I was going to give you the book then."
"So why didn't you?" Mallory was becoming increasingly annoyed.
"You refused to have lunch with me," Kevin explained, "I was wounded. I have often thought we would complement each other immensely. I dwell on the evening after Faire, when our bodies collided. It was glorious. Don't you miss it?" Kevin explained.
"I have so many questions," Athena interjected, "Faire?"
"Renaissance Faire," Mallory grumbled, "And our bodies didn't collide! It was one kiss and don't count on it happening again."
“Dear Lady, don’t you understand. My only wish is to please you,” Kevin divulged.
"Okay, well then, give the book to me now," Mallory insisted.
Kevin gasped, "I don't just carry your book around with me every day. I need to guard it. Keep it safe, for you."
Mallory spoke through gritted teeth, "Where is it then?"
Kevin took out his phone and showed Mallory a picture of what looked like a small treasure chest sitting next to a photo of her during one of their Renaissance Faire weekends. Inside the chest was the book.
"Is that in your room? What sick setup do you have there?" Mallory demanded.
"I'm just trying to help the Universe bring us together with some magic and positive energy. Nothing dangerous," Kevin explained.
"Awe, that's sweet," Athena commented.
Mallory addressed Athena, "Not helping."
Mallory pointed her finger at Kevin in declaration, "You scoundrel. You need to give that book back now. I need it to restore my reputation at the library."
"Yeah, still not a thing," Athena said, "I think the librarians are just happy to get the books back. I don't think your reputation is on the line."
Kevin came closer and gently grabbed Mallory's finger and caressed her hand, "Ah, yes, scoundrel. You like it when I'm a scoundrel."
Kevin brought his face towards Mallory's and whispered, "Look, you're trembling."
Mallory went from confused to immediately alarmed, "Oh no. You are not going to Han Solo me."
Kevin went to kiss her, and she ducked away.
"Han Solo would have at least had the book nearby before he tried that move," Mallory declared, "I will find a way to get my book back without your help."
Mallory and Athena left the library.
"How are you going to get your book back? He said it was in his bedroom," Athena said.
"We'll have to plan an ambush."
"You know where he lives?"
"Yeah, he's given me multiple invitations to D & D. He lives with his roommate, Jeff. I'll have to find a way to get him to let me in. I can't take a chance that Kevin will try another Han Solo move on me again."
"I adore Han Solo."
Mallory and Athena made their way to Kevin's apartment in the hopes of catching his roommate Jeff, unaware of their battle with Kevin.
“Maybe you should give him a chance,” Athena advised.
“Who? Kevin? No.”
"He's kind of cute," Athena pointed out, "And he kind of talks like you do, too. I didn't think that was even possible, to find a guy that talks like you."
"It's just because he's Faire folk. There are a lot of people who talk like that at Faire."
"Really? Maybe I should join you at Faire," Athena's tone was curious and amused.
"Athena, focus,” Mallory whispered, “Just play along with what I say.”
"Absolutely, playing along is all I can do because I am so confused right now," Athena agreed.
The door opened and Jeff greeted them, "Ah dear Ladies. How are you this fine day."
Athena hummed with excitement and Mallory grabbed her arm, urging her to stay calm.
"Ah, yes, Sir Jeff. I am here on a quest to get a certain item promised to me from Brainard the Dragon Wrangler. He stated that I could find it in his bedroom," Mallory stated.
Jeff studied her, grasping what she had said, "You mean, Brainard gave you passage to his inner sanctuary while he was not here? That doesn't sound like him."
Athena struggled to hold back a laugh and was starting to snort. Mallory elbowed her to stay quiet.
"Please give me a moment," Jeff said and closed the door.
"I find it interesting that you are concerned about your integrity at the library, but you are okay with lying to other people," Athena pointed out.
"Lying is justified when you are trying to regain what has been stolen from you by such villains," Mallory declared.
"Or...you could realize that he likes you a lot and maybe give him a chance. After all, if he didn't catch your mistake, what would have happened to the book? I don't know if the campus library ever talks to the city library. I have no idea how those things work," Athena reasoned.
Mallory thought about it but did not want to hear a scenario where Kevin was actually helping her.
Jeff came back, "Good news. All you have to do is wait two minutes and all will be revealed."
"Revealed?" Athena questioned.
Mallory was confused, "That sounds extremely ominous, even for our crowd."
In moments, a Yugo pulled up in front of the apartment. "Traitor!" Mallory yelled at Jeff.
"You did just lie to him," Athena stated, "What's wrong?"
Mallory gestured to the car as she encouraged Athena to run with her back to the Volvo Heritage. Kevin exited the Yugo. He held one of his Faire foam swords in the air and declared, "My Lady, my hospitality only extends to you visiting me in my chambers..."
Mallory and Athena both made "bleh" faces at each other as they heard this.
"But," Kevin continued, "I will not stand by while you try to steal from me. If you want a battle, then you've got one."
Mallory went into her trunk and took out two shields and her foam sword. She gave one shield to Athena and said, "Stay back and use this if you need to protect yourself."
Athena stared at the shield, "I'm pretty sure we could even buy a new book and give it to the library."
"Athena, my friend, we've come too far to give up now."
Mallory and Kevin charged towards each other, swords raised high, and yelled out their war cries. Jeff stood by to officiate. Mallory and Kevin were matching each other, blow for blow. Jeff called out each strike, staying true to his job and not taking sides. Mallory and Kevin proved to be evenly matched and both dealt out deadly blows at the same time, according to the bylaws of Renaissance Faire combat rules. Jeff declared it a draw and the two dropped their weapons and fell onto the grass.
Kevin looked at Mallory, "I never wanted it to come to this. I just wanted you to agree to a date. After that night at Faire, I thought we had a connection."
Mallory sighed, "Yeah. I felt it too."
"Do you want a snack? We've got leftover pizza," Kevin offered.
"I'm starving and I never got around to feeding Athena. I promised her lunch ages ago," Mallory mused.
Athena, Jeff, Kevin, and Mallory were sitting on a blanket that Kevin set up on the grass. In the middle of the blanket was the chest in the photo Kevin presented to Mallory. It was closed but Mallory could tell it was the one with her book.
They were eating the pizza Kevin and Jeff brought out. A pesky fly was interested in Mallory’s pizza and kept trying to land. Each time, Kevin would swat it away for her.
Kevin was admiring Mallory’s sword, “This is fantastic, more realistic than the other swords. It almost looks like something from the history books. You decorated it yourself?”
Mallory beamed, “Yep. I was going to add a little more to it today. Athena and I were going to go shopping for supplies.”
“It looks great already but I’m sure whatever you do will make it look stunning,” Kevin looked at her with admiration. The fly went for Mallory’s pizza again. “Let me get him.”
Athena chimed in, “It’s only a fly. Who cares?”
“They throw up on your food when they land!” Kevin and Mallory said in unison.
“Oh,” Athena uttered while she gave Mallory a look that silently said And you don’t think this guy is right for you?
Kevin looked down as he tried to keep his nerve. It was the most vulnerable Mallory had ever seen him, “That night was great. We laughed and talked forever. What went wrong?”
Mallory placed her hand on his, encouraging him to look at her, “That night was great because you were this person. I like Kevin. Brainard is a great personality at Faire but he’s also kind of an arrogant jerk. The person I want to date, to kiss is Kevin.”
Kevin made a playful gasp, “Well, why didn’t you say so My Lady.”
“Just kidding,” Kevin replied, “You could have told me. I like that you prefer me.”
“Ugh, well, it’s so much easier for me to talk after I’ve wailed on someone with my sword,” Mallory joked.
“Isn’t that the truth,” Kevin agreed and opened the chest, “Here you go. Your book, no strings attached. You do what makes you happy.”
“I think a date with Kevin would make me happy.”
Kevin sighed with delight and then stroked Mallory’s chin with his thumb as he went to cup her cheek and brought her closer for a kiss.
The next day, our hero completed her quest. She returned her book into the hands of the rightful guardians of such wonderful publications, the Escondido Library. She also delivered the necessary coins to cover the late fees, courtesy of her new Dragon Wrangler and boyfriend. She stressed that she could take care of whatever fees were needed to restore the library’s faith in her but he insisted.
It was one of the first of many acts of gallantry he would perform to prove his affections for her.
Also, a final message: Athena was right. The library is actually fine with late books. As long as the book is returned and the fees are paid and people keep on coming back, then they’re happy.