The Library and the Spellbook
Dylan's plan went into motion as the strange group entered the library, the royalty, the pirate, the well-dressed black and white demon, a miniature dragon, and two kids. The library was two levels, the second one designed as a balcony. There was a wide, carpeted staircase leading up to the second floor, where Dylan could just barely see the tops of the bookshelves. In the first floor, there were walls covered from one end to the other with books. If there was to be one impressive thing about plain old Cliffhaven, it was its library.
“And you’re sure we can find another copy here, Dylan?” Sofia asked, looking around in awe at the library.
“Well, it can’t hurt to try,” Dylan shrugged, leading the group to the front desk. “Hi,” he approached the front desk. The stereotypical librarian sat in front of them, her white, almost blue-tinted hair pinned up nicely, and beaded glasses sitting on the tip of her nose. And, like every other person in Cliffhaven, she was ancient.
“Can I help y’all?” she asked in the southern twang common in this part of Tennessee.
“Yeah, we’re looking for a book. It’s called the Storybook of Princesses?” Dylan said.
“By...The Author?” the lady read off the screen with confusion.
“That’s the one!”
“Upstairs,” the lady pointed to the next level. “In the Fantasy aisle, under A.”
“Thank you!” Dylan waved as they ran off to the stairs. The lady hissed an angry shush at them.
Dylan led his group of strangers up the carpeted library stairs, Ella practically skipping at his side, holding his hand.
“Didja see the way she looked at us?” Ella whispered. “She thought we were crazy!”
“Probably because they’re dressed like...well, that,” he turned to stare at the strangely-dressed characters behind him. “Remind me to get 'em new clothes, to help them blend in.”
“I liked my dress before it got all ruined,” Sofia sighed, holding up her puffy pink skirt so she could walk up the stairs. “I wish I knew how it happened.”
“We’ll figure it out once we get to this book,” Dylan promised as they began to reach the end of the stairs.
“I am glad to get my memories back,” the ever-articulate Kyros commented, using his cane to help himself walk up the staircase. “Understanding all of my power but not knowing what it is... can be very mind boggling.”
Dylan stepped onto the second level. “Fantasy...fantasy...this way,” he led them to the aisle. “It’s under A...where could it be? It’s not on any of these shelves.”
“Child, I found it,” Rebecca said, pointing at a shelf nailed into the wall.
“Good job!” Dylan rushed over and pulled it out of the shelf, whipping it open. His face fell slack as he flipped to the next page, and then the next. “You...you have to be kiddin’ me!”
“What? WHAT?!” Ella jumped to look over his shoulder.
Dylan flipped through the pages rapidly. “Empty!” he breathed. “Every! Single! One! Empty!” He shoved the book into Ella’s arms. The little girl studied the blank pages.
“But how?” she asked quietly.
“I don’t know!” Dylan groaned. “But that didn’t help one iota!”
“One who-dee-what-a?” Ella looked up from the book with confusion.
“Hey, kid, check this out,” Rebecca pushed past the siblings, kneeling by the shelf and pushing the books out of the way. In the place where the book was, carved messily into the wall, was a circle, with strange symbols surrounding it. “What’s this supposed to mean?”
“Oh my gosh, Dyl, it’s the thing!” Ella pointed, dancing from one foot to another excitedly.
“You’re right!” Dylan pulled the original Storybook out from his small, blue backpack. The characters all looked over his shoulder curiously as he opened to the inside back cover, revealing the eerily similar symbol.
“What’s that?” Sofia asked, pointing at the center of the circle, at the tiniest of red stains.
“That must be from my paper cut,” Dylan looked down at his hand. All that remained was a small, red line.
“You don’t think that your blood released all of us from the book, do you?” Zach asked.
“No way, that’s just not possible,” Dylan shook his head. “It doesn’t make any logical sense!”
“Kid, does any of this?” Rebecca shrugged. “You need to have a little bit more faith in magic.”
Ugh, magic. Why did everyone in this crazy town somehow believe in magic?
“Look, Dyl, it even has spooky blood stains,” Ella pointed out. She was right, faint red stains showed where some blood once was.
“Someone else try it, then, I don’t want to cut my finger again,” Dylan shook his head, stepping back. Rebecca, without hesitation, whipped out a knife and slashed her palm. “ARE YOU CRAZY?!” Dylan screamed, earning another angry SHHHH from the librarian downstairs.
“It’s a shallow cut, I’ve experienced worse...I think,” Rebecca said, looking down at her hand with uncertainty as the blood swelled from the small wound. “I’m a warrior, right? I’ve experienced worse. Well, I can’t go back now,” she pressed her hand up against the wall, letting her blood drip onto the symbol. The group waited, but nothing happened. “It must be you,” Rebecca looked at Dylan, turning her dagger towards him.
“Nonono, no knife!” Dylan backed away from the stoic warrior. “I’ll just get another paper cut, it’ll hurt less,” he ran his finger down the edge of a page in the empty book. He frowned deeply when nothing happened, and continued to rub the edge. “Oh, now you don’t cut me?”
“I can bite you, if you want,” Lilith the dragon said from Sera’s shoulder.
“I’m fine! I’m fine,” Dylan insisted. “Why does everyone want to inflict pain on me?”
“Because we want to see the weird symbol thing do its magical business,” Ella said bluntly.
“Alright, alright! Just gimme that!” Dylan held his hand out, eyelids drooping. Rebecca handed him the dagger, and he winced just holding it. “I-I don’t know…”
“Just a small cut, Dyl Dyl,” Ella pinched her pointer finger and thumb together. “It won’t hurt at all.”
Dylan sighed and rested the blade on his thumb. He inhaled, and then exhaled, pressing the blade harder onto his skin. It wasn't enough pressure to break flesh, however. He withdrew the knife with a defeated sigh.
"You can do it, Dyl," Ella urged quietly. Dylan looked at his sister, then his hand, then the wall, then back down at his hand.
"Just one quick motion," he whispered to himself as if to cheer himself on. "Like ripping off a bandage..." he closed his eyes, and then decided that wasn't the best idea, and reopened them. "Just do it," he mumbled. "Just do it, just do it, just do it!" he nicked his thumb, just a small cut, but it still stung the child. He pulled his hand away from the blade, whimpering quietly.
"See, that wasn't too bad, was it?" Rebecca said, taking back her knife and sheathing it. Dylan turned to the wall so no one could see the tears forming in the corners of his eyes.
"Nope, easy-peasy," he choked. He winced at the waver in his voice, hoping no one else noticed. "Here goes nothing," he sighed, pressing his thumb against the wall.
Like the symbol in the book, the carving began to glow. The drop of blood slowly trickled down the wall as cracks began to form a small square around it. Just like in the mystery movies Dylan had watched (and that Ella had no interest in), a secret compartment opened. It held something, encased in small metal walls.
Six gray eyes and two brown ones stared at the compartment in utter silence. Surely that wasn't what they were expecting, but they weren't sure what to expect with the plan. Dylan was kind of making this up as he went along.
“Ho...ly...fish...sticks….” Dylan breathed, breaking the awed silence. Ella snapped out of it as well, approaching the compartment and pulling out none other than a book, thicker and much more full than the Storybook. She studied the brick-colored, empty cover before opening it and realizing it wasn’t a book at all. It looked like a notebook.
It was filled with aged, wrinkled, lined paper and clear, neat handwriting and talented doodles. Papers began to fall out, small and folded and tucked into the pages or just simply worn out and falling from the binding. Dylan knelt down and began to collect up all the fallen papers.
“What is this?” he questioned as he unfolded one piece of paper. “I don’t understand this weird language! It's not Spanish, or German, or French!”
"Or English," Ella added with a small snort. “More funny circle symbols!!” she exclaimed as she flipped through the notebook. “What is this, some freaky witch spell book?”
“Well, this doesn’t look like a story, like this other book,” Dylan commented, rising to his feet. “Look, it looks like someone was taking notes on all these things,” he held out one of the pages that fell out. “These look like strange pentagrams,” he said rustling through his loose papers. “And it looks like it got covered in a bit of blood too. I wonder what happened that made them go all crazy.”
“Look at these last few pages,” Ella handed the notebook to her brother. “They’re all bloody and scribbly. And the weird circle symbol things are more detail-y.”
“Like a strange language…” Dylan breathed.
“Like SNOWFLAKES!” Ella added happily.
“Like mysterious symbols that could be the answer to getting us back home, or in the book, or dimension, or...whatever,” Rebecca said.
“And these are English letters,” Dylan pointed at the few scattered letters here and there. “They must be in some kind of code. We should head back and get these decoded. It may take a while, so Ella, we’ll need to find a place to keep...them,” he motioned to the characters.
“We’re not old coats, boy!” Captain Alexandria snapped, putting her hands on her hips. “We’re people...probably. Are we?” she glanced at Sofia.
“I’d like to think we’re more than just illustrations on a page,” Sofia said, motioning to the Storybook. “But I honestly don’t know.”
“We can’t just keep you in Granny and Gramp’s house, they’ll never allow that,” Dylan said matter-of-fact-ly, closing the notebook and storing it with the original Storybook in his backpack, placing the library copy back on the shelf. “But they have old horse stables they never use anymore since the last horse died, we can keep you in there.”
“Horse stables is fitting for most of these people,” Lilith chuckled, covering his mouth with a tiny black claw.
“It can’t be any worse than the banished lands,” Sera shrugged, smirking.
“We can clean it up, probably get a few beds set up, do storybook characters need to eat?” Dylan asked.
“I, for one, am starving!” Alexandria raised her hand. “I don’t know why, but I feel like I haven’t eaten for days! Anyone else?”
“Me!” Sofia raised her hand, but no one else responded.
“It must have something to do with your guys’ story, if it’s only you two” Dylan tossed his backpack over his shoulder. “There’s a cheap burger place not too far from here, we can run there real fast.”
“Burgers! And fries! And milkshakes!” Ella cheered.
“I don’t know what any of those are, but I can’t wait,” Sofia grinned kindly.