A long, long time ago. . .
A long, long time ago, on the world of the Aged Erthe, and centered on the bare land of Erstwhile, there came a Bookwrym.
The man was not a worm, lets make that clear. He did not pesk under the dirt, and neither did he shift or squirm about either. This Wyrm, had been a Bookwrym.
Just shy of obsessive, Bookwyrms had-well, loved books.
They were very shy people, most: very tall and lanky, while others; short and fat. They came in many of sizes, and almost anyone could have been one. Although, they had one key difference from the ones we call 'bookworms' today, and that, had been magic.
Our very own Bookwrym, Beals- who I really should have introduced sooner, was one of these men and women blessed with the talent of sorcery, and I must say, he had been very good at it.
Even now, when this story had taken place, he was practicing his magic very carefully; a book pushed almost flat against his face as the little round reading glasses on his nose hung over it. He had not even noticed the man who walked bare faced into the room; carrying a stack of neatly arranged papers under his arm as he tapped his feet onto the ground.
"Ahem." Said he, giving a fake cough into the padding of his coat, "Beals-"
"Ah! I do say Master Scumburt, you do strive to give me heartache!" Said Beals, lifting his eyes from the book, "What would you like?"
"Hm, yes, quite." Said Scumburt, looking around the room with a single eye; Of course, with a Bookwrym, one would expect bookcases filled with books and the like, all packed neatly in rows of four; perhaps even five if they had been generous, but in this circumstance, each one had been completely bald.
There were not many reasons this could be, as it could not have been that he had hated books! Then he would have not been a Bookwrym. Or that he had sold them all, ( because that was also impossible, ) it could have only meant one thing, and with a brief look to the ground, it would be shown in an unforgiving view.
The floor, if it could have been called that any longer; was covered from base to bottom in books, and since it had been Beals's collection, there had been a lot of them. Beals, as he liked to say "-owned every book that anyone in all of Erstwhile had ever touched." And of course while that was completely false, and fairly impractical, it had been true to word in some sense.
Pencils, Papers, Pamphlets, and Pens, (naturally, books too!) Covered the ground, and yet, not only that. They had also coated surfaces of tables and desks, ladders and chests! There was a chair in the corner of the room, stacked high to the ceiling with the books as well; almost as if someone had thrown all of them there looking for something, and look they did.
It had been then that Beals had looked fully up from the book, and closed it with a gentle thump.
"Yes, I know what you are thinking, 'Why is it so messy in here?', 'Beals is such a slob.' " Said he with a mocking tone, "Well I'll have you know, I can clean up just fine by myself. I don't need you to do everything. " And with that, Beals lifted a finger, and danced it in the air.
'Hippity Hopity Dunder doo,
We thwack and we clack back into our shutes,
We knock and we walk but we'll try not to talk!'
Scumburt could imagine the stacks would sing and skip as they all made their way back into each of their rightful places. Alas, no sound had come from the books, and as the very last paper had been making their way to the shelf, Scumburt took the little note up into his fingers.
"Ah, yes! Thank you Master Scumburt." Said Beals, snatching the paper from the other, "I was looking for that."
"No issue." The short man muttered, twisting his unshaved handlebar hair ("The disgusting mustache hair," Beals corrected his mind,) with unease, "Who is this Wormwood?"
"Now, Now, Master Scumburt! He goes by Wormwood! Respect is in order! He is the very man I will be meeting soon, he's sent me a letter by messenger vulture and I hadn't had the chance to read it! Now, let see. . ." Said Beals, reading the note like he had the book before, (it were almost as if he had no glasses! And well, he ought not to have any, for the tinny little glasses on his nose did not look to be for viewing,) "It says here that he's coming to visit me on the winter of April the 2nd. . .why, that's today! Do you hear that Master Scumburt? He's coming today!" Up Beals jumped, scuttling around and around the room with rattling teeth, before he came to stop before the bookshelves once more; pulling out the contents.
"Stop it Beals! We'll never get anywhere like this! What are you doing?" Said Scumburt, pulling Beals back by his collar nape, "What time does it say he's coming by?"
"It doesn't! Oh no, I have to find the conversation planner! It'll tell me what to say once he gets here! What'll we have for tea? Maybe Black? Peppermint? Sniffstille? Wait, we've run out of that one- what if that one is his favorite? And we've run out! O, How could this get any worse?!" Said Beals, dropping another book.
"Good Afternoon men!" A voice bellowed from behind the two; a voice that frightened Beals to the very bone as he whipped around to look at the bearer. "I see you have been carefully preparing for my arrival.
"Mister Wormwood!" Beals scrambled, peeling himself from Scumburt. "What a surprise-"
"It should not be, the vulture dropped off the letter correct?"
"Why, yes! It did, I was just saying, well- how did you get in?" Said Beals. (He was very sure he had locked the door when he came in that morning! Stragglers exist after all and he didn't want them to steal any of his books.)
"I used the key under the fake nest on top of the light; I'm not an idiot." Mister Wormwood chuckled, twirling the key on a finger, "It is 3:00 on the dot. I expect you have my book?"
"Yes, yes! Let me get that for you sir!" Said Beals, giving a turn toward Scumburt, "I want you to entertain our guest while I go out into the library to gather the book- I have to find it." He whispered, patting the other on the shoulder.
"Gather? Why didn't you get it before hand? That's not my job! I'm bad at talking to nobles! I just clean the shelves!" Said Scumburt, gripping onto Beals's arm.
"Well, you're sure to figure it out while I'm out!" Nodded Beals, giving him a dismissive grin, "Be right back!" Said he, before smiling at both of the men in the room, and striding out into the hall. It was a very spontaneous striding, so sudden that poor Master Scumburt's eyes had almost popped from his skull at the sudden onset of silence.
"H-How do you do, Mister Wormwood?" Said Scumburt, after a stagnant pause.
"Im doing well, Mister Scumburt, how about yourself?" Tittered Mister Wormwood, flexing his fingers in the silence.
"Great- great." Scumburt nodded, craning his neck, "Would you like tea?"
"Oh, please." Said the other, giving a relieved sigh.
There were many moments of silence for the two men after that, with brief sayings of words in it, and there had also been a sort of un-awkward silence in play for our Bookwrym too as he skipped down the hall, and out an already open door; straight down to the back of the large area. It was the library of course, (not many would call it much else, ) and it was open to the public; although, it had been Sunday that day, and the library was closed so there had not been a man in sight except for Beals, and he liked it that way too.
He was never very fond of people, and one would ask "Why do you own a library then?" And to that he would answer the one with a blatant, "I don't know." He did know, and yet, for some odd reason he pretended not to. It was not, only then- for the claim of "not liking people," It was also for the fact that the library house was the biggest area he could have kept his books, (no normal house would be able to keep a personal collection of 12 million books would they?) And it helped him very much.
Beals did not run the library, and as much as Scumburt had claimed that he just 'washed the shelves' (and although that was a decent part of his job,) he also tended to the people that came to the library, and took care of it like it had been his own, he even managed to sell the books sometimes, (rent is expensive!) and so, that was what made Beals like the other man so much.
They had not been friends for long,(well, as long as Beals would have liked, three years was not enough for the Wyrm to be completely satisfied,) but he still held the other very dear to his heart. No matter how many times Scumburt had put the jam onto the shelf and the books into the freezer, it still meant much to Beals that the other was even there.
Snapping himself from his thoughts, Beals rounded the corner, skidding to a stop before the alphabeticalized note on the shelf that told that the row were of the letters 'T to S", a particularly long section that were only divided by cobwebs and insects, (no one said that Scumburt was good at his job,) and the faint smells of old rotten leather and dust.
The dust that was mentioned before, had caused a lot of distress as Beals had looked for the book the note quoted, and it was getting very hard to see within the section, (Beals had inherited many of the books in the library from his own father, who had also been the Bookwyrm for the library before him.) When his father, Henry, had watched over the area, there had only been 6 million books on the shelves, and even a little sitting area for tea and dipping bread sat there in 'T to S' at the very back.
It had been a while since Beals had gone to the very back of the section; as he had only ventured through the aisles when he was barely eight, and on his second hundred set of books. He remembered being very proud of that two - hundred milestone, and how many chores he had to do to earn the money to buy them all.
The book in question shone from its place on the very bottom back of the shelves, and with a dust ridden hand, Beals tore it from the rest. It was quite sticky- the book, from not being moved for so long, and with coughed breath, Beals blew the dust from the cover.
'The Wicker Witch', the book spelled, with dull gold lettering; and with a shaken hand, Beals stuffed it into his pack.
It would not be very right for Beals to make his guest wait a moment longer! And he intended not to do so, so; Off he went! Running down the shelves in haste. It was more of a breeze once he hadn't been looking for anything and soon, he appeared before the door to his study once more, covered in dust and dirt.
"Oh thank god!" Said Scumburt, standing up from the table. The two had just began to settle for tea and pastries before the man had come, and it was as awkward as ever.
"You didn't entertain him?" Asked Beals, rolling his eyes and taking the book from his pack .
"Oh, well, uh, uhm, oof-!" Said Scumburt, a bag full of books thrown to his chest, "Ow! Hey!"
"They're all for you, I found some on the way." Said Beals, waving an offhand, hand at the man.
"Uh. Thank you." Said Scumburt, with a very confused blink, "Did you find the book?"
"What do I have in my hand?" Said Beals.
"Alright," Said Beals, once again waving the other man off, "When our guest leaves, Come back with tea for me please! I don't really like Daffodil."
"I quite enjoy Daffodil-" Said Mister Wormwood, lifting form his chair, "Oh! Wait, you've gotten the book!" Said he, prying it from the Beals's grip, "I haven't seen this book since your father showed it to me 30 years ago! Wonderful. I will make copies so the rest will have something to read on the morrow."
"The rest?" Said Beals, tilting his head.
"Yes, the rest! My reading group, I've been boasting about this book for 7 years. They've finally gotten tired of me mentioning it. They want to read it, and since this is the only library on this side of Erstwhile, I find this a win." With a smile, and a low bow, Mister Wormwood began to dig inside his coin-pouch, "100,000 gild, am I correct?"
"100,000 gild?" Said the two men in wonder.
"That's what its worth! I wouldn't want to lower the price too much for you two sirs." Said Mister Wormwood, handing Beals a thin check and a smaller, thicker piece of cardstock with his name and address spindled in fine writing onto it, "There you go."
"Wait, I cant take this. I doubt the book is worth that much, sir." Said Beals, before a hand cupped his ear with frantic whispers.
"Sh!" Said Scumburt, "If he says it's worth that much it is!"
"You really are true to your name, Master Scumburt." Said Beals, raising a delicate eyebrow.
"Shut it! You know it means something else."
"Why yes, I do, but I believe you are acting very scummy, Dear."
A laugh came from before the two men, a simple one that told of true entertainment and amazement, with a hint of something else.
"You two cannot whisper for the life of you, my word." Said Mister Wormwood, "I must be going; it is already 4:45, but Beals," He continued, already beginning to walk from the room:
"I would love to have you in my group."
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