The Library at the End of the World

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Nara’s heart was filled with a mix of pride and anxiety. She was supposed to be here, yet she knew so little about this place, these people. “Ok, who wants to explain what does it mean to be a proper Librarian?” The dryad raised her hand. Caleban noticed her activity: “Go on, Billima” The dryad smiled at the encouragement: “Librarians with capital L are employees of the Library that was founded by Alexandros the Great. However the Library in Bibliopolis is only one half of the whole Library. The other one, the one in the real world, ceased to exist. Our part is the only remaining one. We collect books, inventions, we record history and spells. We gather knowledge about sapient and non-sapient races. Oh and the realms they live in.” “Bravo,” said Caleban and was about to say something but Nara chimed in: “Excuse me but if there is a real world, what is this city? Are we in an unreal world right now?” The griffin wore a look of understanding, some of his students looked as if they pitied Nara’s lack of knowledge.

Caleban said: “You came to be only a few days ago and I don’t know what your guide told you but it wasn’t much, I assume.” Nara smiled sheepishly. “Thought so. As Billima mentioned there is our world, the one we are in right now as I speak and you listen, and the real world. You have right, we aren’t real. Not for those living on the other side. For the ones that think of themselves as real we are but yarns spun by their minds, figments of their imaginations that have no solid form. Simply put we are stories. Actually not all of us are stories. The Characters are the ones the tales are about. Some, but not all, stories have a Narrator or two that narrate them diligently. And that gets us back to us – the Librarians. Because that’s another part of our life. We observe the stories and how they change. You will witness the creation of new ones as the perishing of the old and forgotten.” The griffin flew to the ceiling during his speech and now he slowly landed on the floor again. Caleban sure liked to talk a lot for something so small. But Nara didn’t mind, she hang on each and every word. The world where the tales are real. All the heroic protagonists with their faithful companions. All the dreadful Bads and Big Bads. The world of stories. And she’s going to live and work in a place surrounded by them. This life is beginning perfectly.

She has always loved imagining different stories. She didn’t stuck to one genre. A love com scenario was just as fun to imagine as sci-fi soap opera. And when she got to tell them to her parents and her friend she felt like making a world just for the few of them. She found magic in the simple joy of storytelling. But she had no parents. She woke up on an island like a mythic being created from sea foam and beach sand. No, that wasn’t it. She used to have parents. In her previous life. The fogged memories made her sad as she felt strongly that whatever life she had been leading before is now lost forever.

With a blink she returned to her current situation. Caleban didn’t have noticed her being lost in her memories for few seconds and was now asking another pupil of his to explain the Library’s ranking system. “Everyone starts as a Letterookie. If you’re good and work hard, you may take exams to get to a higher level. There are five levels in total. The Letterookie, the Wordling, the Paragraph Professional, the Chapter Commander and lastly the Arc Master. The Arc Master is the highest rank you can possibly get. And it’s also the only rank you don’t get by passing an exam instead you go through a trial, a test of character and those who pass are then being elected from. Currently we have two Arc Masters leading our cause. Master Heliodor Lothar and Master Livingstone Yoda.” “That makes two Masters, that’s why we call them the Duology. Got it? A single guy would be a Stand Alone, three master-dudes make up a Trilogy,” that was the monkey in monk’s robe hogging another student’s spotlight. “You’re right Monkee but you’re supposed to wait your turn and not jump into your colleague’s speech,” reprimanded him Caleban. Monkee just rolled his eyes.

He might know a lot about the goings-on in the Library but he didn’t seem to be very disciplined. Apparently even a study group of nerdy librarians had its class clown and troublemaker. But Nara didn’t want to spend her day giving out labels to her new colleagues. She wished to learn more about this new world and her own place in it.

The first was when Caleban read them a few of the Socratic dialogues. Because a Librarian has to be able to read and to listen equally well. Nara was a bit surprised that the inhabitants of the unreal world can read the philosophical writings of a real life philosopher but even more surprising for her was the notion that she knew she heard that name before. She knew that he lived in the real world, when he lived and who his successors were. Another proof that she must have already lived once. She had a family and was provided some education. This was interesting but she wasn’t sure what to do with such a discovery so she put it aside and focused on the here and now.

After the listening to the piece of literature and discussions of the philosophical themes the study group had a magic lesson. Right at the beginning Caleban went off with the explanation that he has to make a small change due to the new student. But he was soon back. He had it probably stored somewhere near because he would use it in his teaching plans sooner rather than later but wasn’t expecting to bring it to class today.

Soon the feathery teacher returned with a bag. “I will show you a test how to determine whether someone has some magical abilities. It’s easy and it is a good tool to find out and unlock your own or someone else’s potential,” he said after he put down the satchel. “Alternatively you can gauge the possible level of power of an unknown person you encounter for the first time and you aren’t sure whether he is friend or foe. And because we have one such enigma among us today, let’s uncover some of her secrets,” Caleban cawed happily.

Oh my, he surely means me, thought Nara, although she could say this about anyone in the room since she didn’t know them properly. Then it hit her that she was chosen to be a test subject. That sure was first-hand learning experience. Should she be afraid? Will it hurt? She was just six days old and had no previous contact with magic.

Still Nara stood up and walked to the front of the class, she was afraid but only a bit. More like nervous because she was unsure of what will be expected from her. Her curiosity was way bigger than any anxiety possibly lurking in the back of her mind though.

The miniature griffin stuck his beak in a satchel and took out an unknown device. It was thin and made from a metal, its handle covered in rubber. Caleban held it in his front paw so he had his beak free to talk: “You have to stick this part on the naked skin.” He waved with the device to the librarian-students so they could see that ‘this part’ had three antennae-like endings with three rubber suckers. Nara rolled up her trousers on her left leg and her avian mentor wasted no time. He touched the spot of the free skin with the antennas and the suckers have planted a rubbery kiss on Nara’s ankle. She noticed a little display – just large enough for three lines – lightning up. The device started working.

It itched and scratched lightly as if streams of electrical ants sprinted over her body. Then suddenly, it was over! Nara looked questioningly at her teacher, who was already studying the device’s screen, hoping he will tell her the result soon.

“Your score is zero. That means you have no potent magic cell in your body but on the other side you aren’t in the negative numbers area either, so you don’t nullify magic around you,” said Caleban matter-of-factly as he stared at the device’s tiny display. “You can still use enchanted objects without you affecting them,” he added when he looked up and caught Nara’s questioning face.

Nara was content with the result. She wasn’t disappointed because she hadn’t much expectations in the first place. Of course, she wouldn’t deny having magical power could have its perks but she didn’t view Caleban’s assessment of her as a loss. In the contrary he said there are still magical objects she can use without making them go awry. And since Librarians surely collected some miraculous tools she will get her hands on one of these one day. Sooner rather than later.

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