Friday, December 16, 2016

Friday Flash: Yule at the Dragons' Library

Seemed like time for a holiday tale, but of course, I can't write just some sweet story of gifts under the tree. Instead, I wandered back into the library to see what Millicent, the wizard librarian of the dragons' library, might do for the holiday. In 1100 words, for your enjoyment:

Yule at the Dragons’ Library

Millicent slid her glasses down her nose and looked at the page who shelved books most afternoons.

“You want a what?”

“A Yule tree,” Pongo said, not quite daring to look at the head librarian.

“A Yule tree,” Millicent repeated thoughtfully. “Yes, that might be pleasant,” she admitted. She glanced across the room. “Just a moment, Pongo.”

Mil made no sound as she crossed the main floor of the library to where two patrons seemed to be having words. “Is there a problem?” she asked, laying a hand on each. Studying the faces of the ogre under her right hand and the banshee under her left, Mil finished, “gentlemen?”

“Oo, er, no mum,” the ogre muttered.

“He bumped my table,” the banshee began. His voice quickly rising toward the usual banshee wail, he closed his mouth abruptly at Millicent’s hushing gesture.

“There will be no disruptions in my library,” Millicent murmured. “For you, I wouldn’t even need to call the head of security.”

The banshee looked relieved. The head of security was a dragon, and he either singed or ate anyone he had to discipline.

The ogre, however, remembered, as too few patrons did, that Millicent was a trained wizard as well as a survivor of the slums of Erlintown, and not to be trifled with. “Yes, mum,” he said, and staggered off in the direction of the books on manners and etiquette.

Millicent watched him a moment. Hmm. An ogre looking for social advancement. Wonders never ceased. She turned her attention back to the banshee.

“You will be quiet, won’t you?” Her smile had nothing of warmth and everything of threat in it. The banshee nodded.

“Now, then, Pongo,” Mil said, returning to where the page watched in awe, trying to memorize everything she’d done. He pulled himself back to the point with an effort.

“Yair, a tree. I know where to get one,” he offered.

“Very well. Bring a tree and we will find a place for it.”

“And decorate it with candy?”

Millicent glared over her glasses. Really, they were most useful. “Good heavens, no. No food in the library. We will decorate with,” she thought a moment, “ribbons.”

The page’s shoulders slumped a little, but he recovered, and went off to fetch the tree.

Two days later, neither was so happy. Two days, and two trees. They hadn’t even had time to decorate the second one before disaster struck.

The first tree had looked lovely. When Mil closed up the library for the night, checking every nook to ensure that there were no dragons in the reading room or fauns curled up in a window seat, she paused by the tree and took a deep breath. It did smell nice, and looked festive, covered with red ribbons. The ogre had passed a compliment on it on his way out. “Oo, er, that’s right loverly, that is.”

In the morning, Millicent hadn’t been sure at first what was missing. The library looked as it always did. A faint scent of sawdust puzzled her, but she could see no signs of damage. Crossing past where the tree had stood the night before, she caught a scent of pine, and saw a few loose needles, but there was no tree.

Puzzled, she looked around. Then she set her lips in a firm line. Someone had stolen their tree. This could not be permitted. But for the moment, she was more concerned to replace it before Pongo saw and broke his heart. The boy seemed to set store by the Yule tree, even without candy.

On the way to the library, Mil had noticed that there were vendors selling Yule trees nearby, and she went back out and purchased a new tree, using her lunch money. She brought the tree back—Mil looked small, but managing the books of her library took a bit of muscle, so she had no trouble carrying the modest tree up the steps and into the library—and set it up where the other had been.

Then she walked the stacks, looking for signs that anything besides the tree had been damaged. She saw the needles and a bit of sawdust on the floor in the aisle by the spelled books, those books that had powerful magic and were a law unto themselves. And there were more of them than there should be.

Millicent counted, just to be sure. Yes, someone had come and taken their Yule Tree and left four new books on the shelves with the Spelled Books. Not having a death wish, Mil didn’t open the books. Let one of the more foolish young wizards do that. She would watch and learn what they contained. It was how she had become one of rather few wizards to last well into adulthood, and still maintained an accurate card catalog.

Meanwhile, she needed to get more ribbons to decorate the tree.

Pongo's shout brought Millicent back out with a brisk stride. One did not run in the library, any more than one shouted, but a librarian learned to cover the ground in a hurry nonetheless.

Pongo stood well back from the Yule tree, and with good reason. A line of books ran from the shelf of spelled books to the tree, and the foremost book was...eating the tree. After a minute, it spat out something. Mil dared to draw near enough to see that it was a book.

The spelled books were cutting out all the middlemen, and producing books directly from the tree.

"This. Will. Stop!" Millicent commanded. She took up a pair of heavy leather gloves and approached the books.

Pongo let out a little admiring "Ohhh!" as she began corralling the spelled books, wrapping them in the heavy leather straps that would keep them closed and well-behaved for a few hours. She slapped the one that was digesting the tree, and it burped out a tiny volume. That one got a strap too.

When the books were all subdued and reshelved, Mil looked at the draggled remains of their tree. "I think," she told Pongo, "that we need something different here."

An hour later, they strung a curly ribbon around their new Yule tree, built of stacked books. She'd not dared use the spelled books, but the rather ill-behaved books of economics were at the bottom of the stack. Millicent stepped back to admire as the first patrons of the day entered the library. The ogre and banshee of the previous day stood shoulder to shoulder, admiring the tree, and moved on into the stacks, apparently at peace.

Thanks to Colleen, who created the book tree at our library, and gave me the idea!

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2016
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!


  1. "cutting out all the middlemen, and producing books directly from the tree." Ha, ha, ha! I'm afraid I wouldn't have been able to contain my curiosity and open them to see exactly what kind of book is made directly from the tree itself!

    1. One would want to know. But these characters (and the books) have been around before. Take a look and you'll see why she's so cautious!

  2. I love this. Looking forward to the Library edition ;)

    1. I need to gather all the stories together and see if I have enough for a decent collection. But for now...I'm falling behind about finishing Gorg, having underestimated the effects of various other things I had to do, plus a bit of a seasonal funk. Can't wait for the daylight to return!


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