Big thanks, as always, to the WEP hosts and judges! I've missed a couple of these, and I'm glad to be back in the swing of it. The announcement post encouraged us to be humorous if so inclined, so I headed for a favorite spot: one of several rather... odd... libraries I've invented. There I learned some curious things about that old vase-thing on a back shelf...
One Fine Day at the Dragons' Library
“Why,” Stella asked the librarian, “is there such an ugly old vase in the middle of the Forbidden Books collection?”
The Master Librarian of the Dragons’ Library glared over a pair of very strong-looking glasses. “Shh!” Then, “Do you have a library card?” The person behind the desk had an awfully powerful glare—surely that wasn’t a dragon? Wasn’t the librarian supposed to be a dragon? Or a wizard or an elf? Maybe a gnome? Stella hadn’t paid enough attention to her briefing, and now she couldn’t seem to get a good look at the librarian. He, or she, kind of shimmered and wouldn’t come into focus.
Stella accepted the form being handed to her, lowered her voice and asked her question again. She’d known a librarian or two and refused to be intimidated by this one, however famed the library or amorphous the librarian.
Whatever he, she or it was, it was a librarian, and couldn’t resist answering a question. “That’s no vase, but an urn. It contains the ashes of our founder, the great dragon Smaug.”
“His parents were fans of a certain style of book written on an obscure planet somewhere a century or two from now. They claimed it was the name of a heroic dragon in a tale that celebrates the power of dragons,”
Stella sorted through her recall of books encountered in her own journeys through all the libraries of time and found the answer. “They may have gotten some details wrong,” she suggested. Seeing the librarian’s expression—definitely dragon blood there, whatever the person’s shape—she added politely, “It’s a fine name though.”
They both knew it wasn’t. Not with what that chap Tolkien had done to the original Smaug. Could the original post-date the namesake by several centuries and more dimensions? Stella didn’t know and the librarian wasn’t saying. Who were they to judge?
“Still,” Stella has persisted, “why such an ugly va—er, urn? And why among the Forbidden Books?”
“Smaug himself made that vase,” the librarian told her. “In art class at summer camp when he was young. It is considered a fine example of the primitive school of dragon ceramic arts. Considered by dragons,” the librarian added with the punctilious accuracy the profession demanded. She was looking less like a dragon now and more like a human, and Stella lost some of her fear.
“And why among the Forbidden Books?” Stella, a sort of librarian herself, never let go of a question once raised.
Another quelling glare over the glasses “For protection, of course. I don’t recommend you touch it.”
She knew what she was doing, issuing such a warning to someone like Stella. Stella knew, too. It was a test. By now she had forgotten what had brought her to the library, and turned all her powers to understanding the significance of Smaug’s ashes. She didn’t notice how the librarian’s gaze followed her with a mixture of amusement, resignation, and suspicion.
At last Stella laid aside the book she consulted and stood up.
The librarian, whom Stella should have known was Millicent herself, a wizard and the first librarian to bring order to the Dragons’ Library, watched with very old eyes as the investigator disappeared among the Forbidden Books. After a minute she went to survey the smoking remains. Millicent adjusted her glasses, which were in fact clear glass, picked a scorched medallion out of the ashes, and rubbed it clean.
Oh, yes. One of them, she thought. They never did learn.
“Sweep her up,” she instructed Pongo, the library’s page. “And never underestimate the power of a dragon, living or dead. Really, no one seems to understand who is being protected from what.” She sighed. “I’ll get the chains for the books before you get started. The fool woman has gotten them all stirred up.”
Within minutes, the cavernous reading room had resumed its usual quiet. Just a typical afternoon at the library.
All images and text ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2020, unless otherwise indicated.
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!
Check out the rest of the stories:
Check out the rest of the stories: