Havok Publishing

The New Librarian

By J. L. Ender

I flapped my wings, soaring into the clouds. The sun felt glorious warming my scales. Mountains spread below, among them the labyrinthian castle complex of the Infinite Library. Broad skylights glowed in the sunlight.

Suddenly I was inside, still in dragon form. I tried to sort a stack of books, but I kept clawing them to pieces.

“No, no—” But as I spoke fire gushed out, incinerating the precious books.

I woke up human, which only bewildered me further.

What a strange dream.

Shaking my head, I stood to get dressed. My foot bumped my copy of Theories of the Multiverse. I’d fallen asleep reading the odd book. I wavered, thinking about picking it up and tearing through another chapter. Then my stomach growled.

Enforcer’s robes swirling, I made for the kitchen.

Say what you will about humans, they understand breakfast better than dragons. I’d take coffee, bacon, and pastries over half a charred sheep carcass any day.

I sat by the hearth in the dining hall, ready to enjoy a quiet breakfast. Long tables lined with benches dominated the room, all yet to be filled with mages, librarians, and acolytes.

A young woman I’d never seen before sat beside me. She carried no breakfast in her slender hands—suspicious. She studied me with huge, dark eyes framed by equally dark curls. She was small, but not scrawny, and had a scrappy, confident bearing. A heavy dusting of freckles colored her cheeks and forearms.

Probably wanted a job chasing overdue library books. “We’re not hiring.”

The woman glanced around. “I know what you are,” she whispered.

“Oh, what’s that?” I met her gaze, refusing to be intimidated. And I wasn’t about to whisper in an empty room.

“Dragon.” She spoke so softly the word could have been mistaken for a draft from the chimney.

I didn’t react. It had been over three years. If I could be found out so easily, it would have happened by now.

Eventually, I lifted an eyebrow.

“And I don’t care about all that,” she said quickly. “I want to talk about the Multiverse. After your little stunt tricking Alicen, it’s the talk of the Library.”

The portal I created closed with a whumpf and the smell of coffee and crackling logs, leaving us and our bench on a snowy mountaintop.

The woman’s cheeks turned red immediately. I welcomed the cold, reveling as it sank into me. So different from the fire. So different from dragon.

She locked eyes with me and cupped her hands together. A small, blue flame bloomed there. Despite its size, the fire melted the snow at our feet. A pattern of little black triangles the color of oathmarks crawled up the skin of her left hand. I’ve never seen pyromancy do that.

“Who are you?”

The woman grinned, looking pleased with herself. “The new librarian.”

I breathed deep to calm myself. “What do you want?”

“A partnership. We look for the Multiverse together.”

“We’re in the Multiverse.”

“You know what I mean. There’s a way out somewhere on this world, and I want to find it.”

I rubbed my nose and sniffed at the cold. The human form does have its drawbacks. “I work alone.” I couldn’t trust her. I couldn’t trust anyone. It’d be too easy for her to get close enough to expose my secret. I’d worked too hard for this position; the librarians trusted me.

“I’ll swear an Oath not to reveal your secret.”

Well, that changed things.

“Very well, go ahead.”

She blinked, then nodded. “I swear not to reveal that you’re a dragon in human form, once a spy for the drakes, now an enforcer with a conflicted mind, looking for a way out of having to choose by chasing down a fairy tale that just might actually be real.”

Ouch. How in the Seventh Ring did she know so much about me? I’d been assured the humans had no telepaths.

Cupping the fire with her left hand, she pulled back her sleeve, revealing the oathmark, a slender black band like a plain tattoo encircling her bicep.

“You’ve got a deal, once you explain yourself.”

Her eyes flashed, and suddenly I could see a pale orange sunset in the irises. A bird flapped over the canopy of a dark oak forest. “I can see things others can’t.” She blinked and the image vanished.

Otherworldly powers, strange sight… Who is she? What is she?

The fire in her hand flickered unsteadily. The black triangles crawled further up her arm. “Could we go back now? I can’t control this much longer.”

I nodded absently. The portal closed with a whumpf and the smell of swirling snow. A single snowflake fluttered toward its doom over the hearth. A light frost dusted the bench and the woman’s cheeks were flushed, otherwise there was little sign we’d been gone.

 I took a sip of coffee. Good, still warm.

“Can’t believe you call that swill coffee. We’ll go to Paris someday, then you’ll have a real cup.”

“Where? What?”

She ignored my questions. “Can I have a promise?”

I nodded. “Though I won’t swear an Oath.”

“Stay human. Until we see this through.”

I found I didn’t mind the idea. “I’ll do my best.”

A log cracked. I took another sip. “Why do you want the Multiverse?”

She grinned. “Surely you’ve figured it out.” Her smile turned brittle. “There’s a reason I know the Multiverse is real. I’m from another world. I want to go home.”

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J. L. Ender is the author of the superhero series Steel Fox Investigations and mecha vs kaiju mayhem The Cold Below, as well as a number of other novels and short stories. Ender has worked as a dishwasher, a beef jerky labeler, a warehouse worker, a shelf stocker, a greeter, a traveling technician, a laser engraver, a package handler, a copywriter, a graphic designer, a librarian, an editor, a dispatcher, a phone operator, a hotel clerk, and hopefully someday soon as a novelist… He lives in Ohio with his wife and fellow writer SCE Ender.

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