I’m not sure how long I’ve been here. After enough time the years simply blur into lustrums which blur into decades which blur into jubilees, centuries, milleniums. Have I been here a megaannum? Well, surely not that long. But some days it feels like it.
Dignitaries and scholars from even the most secluded lands will make the journey through my massive front doors, seeking the knowledge of the ages that have gathered within my stacks. But it could take well over a human lifetime to find the information they seek. I can help to procure the answers they seek… but not without a price. I require a story — something of cultural or historical value to their people and lands, something original — for how can a library grow without new material? How can I continue to live without new tales to feast upon?
Most visitors come prepared with a few stories, in case I’ve already heard one. That is how you can tell the truly devoted seeker of knowledge apart from the dotish messenger of some far-off king. But if I have heard all the tales they bring… they are on their own. I’ve seen the most grandiloquent of men break down into delerium wasting their short lifespans away wandering the stacks, trying to find the answers they seek from within the denizens of dusty tomes. It never occurs to them they could recant a personal tale, or pen their own fiction in far less time.
Perhaps that is why there has been a steady decline in visitors over the last several years. With fewer stories being added to my collections these days, I’m starting to seriously fear about my health. Already I’ve had to start reading from those stacks I’d set aside for such emergencies, filled with those jejune novels that the general public seem to enjoy but that hardly have the sort of words that I find most palatable. I can survive off of cozy mysteries where the killer is obvious from the second page and the cat does all the work for their lollygagging human, or from mindless romance novels that, for their vast vocabularly for genitalia they fail to pull out a thesaurus for any other words, but they are completely lacking in flavor. And for as much as the main male love interest was completely obsessed with the heroine’s navel in the last romance novel I had to nibble my way through, you’d think the author could’ve thrown one “omphaloskepsis” in there. Now those are the sorts of words I find delicious. That would’ve been a veritable feast!
Outside the library walls, trees blossom and then turn green and then turn amber, mahogany, sienna, canary, then barren and frosted in thick white blankets of snow, before shedding their blankets to blossom in pinks and greens once again. Sometimes, I wonder about the world I read about so often. Mountain villages surrounded by tall evergreens all seasons of the year, an ever-present pine scent permeating the air… what does pine smell like? No matter how descriptive the text, I’ve never known. Or tropical beaches, covered in rock worn down by the ocean for so long it is nothing but grains that drift through your fingers… it is hard for me to imagine such things, even though I know they exist. How often have I imagined I was upon a pirate ship in a tale, searching for new, uninhabited lands? I even wonder what it would be like to see something truly terrifying, like the burial sites of the Midnight Hollows, where it is said that a cult has gathered to practice necromancy in its ever-dark skies. It is one thing to suck the sweet words about a place off the written page, but what must it be like to be there, and experience it firsthand, in order to pen those stories in the first place?
The doors had opened; I could feel the reverberation through my bones. A visitor had finally come to call upon this library once again.
He gawked for a moment at my grandness, not that I can blame him. I hesitated a moment, expecting my guest to announce his title and quest, as they normally do. When he failed to do so, I cleared my throat and said, “Welcome, stranger. You come seeking knowledge?” My voice seemed to resonate from the walls, filling the voluminous structure.
He flinched, but did not recoil. He had better composure than most men that walked through my front doors.
“I seek only a bit of rest, lady. I’m en route to Cloverfield and was surprised to see a building in the middle of nowhere. What a strange place for a library…” He was still glancing around at the massive stacks, and I noticed him take a few deep breaths of the old papery air. I couldn’t help but crack a small grin at that, even though I couldn’t help but feel like this was surely a tarradiddle. No one came here without meaning to be here. I had a right to feel a bit of trepidation. If this visitor was a threat, I wouldn’t hesitate to defenstrate him immediately.
“And who are you, traveler, that seeks solace within these walls?”
“Tuomas Thoroman,” he said with a bit of a performer’s bow, “a bard that has traveled these lands from one sea to the other spreading stories and songs. And you?”
I felt shivers of excitement run through me. The whole of the library seemed to buzz at the prospect of getting a new tale.
My golden eyes flashed up at him, and I gave him a smile that was just disconcerting enough to not feel quite human. “I’ve been called many things, by many different cultures. I believe the words your people use is ‘Word-Eater.'”
He stared back at me, as silence filled the gargantuan room. “I’ll admit, I’ve seen the enslaved animal-folk, the Therions, around courts I’ve performed for, and have run into a Phytonion plant-lady once out in the wild, but have never heard of a Word-Eater. It would seem my studies in xenology are a bit lacking!” He let out a laugh, sounding rather jovial at the whole matter. I’d seen nobles cower in fear at the thought of being in the same room as something not-human, but this yokel seemed to take it in stride.
I was intrigued.
“Stay as long as you like, Bard, but I’ll expect a story for my troubles,” I replied, my grin softening now.
“Aye, I may have a baker’s dozen or two or three of those to spare!” he chuckled.
And his stories were good.
“Would you like to hear about the impavid farmboy from Dragon’s Valley that managed to hornswoggle a dragon egg from the nobleman’s daughter? Or perhaps about Taerria Stronghold? Never have I seen a bigger bumbledom of a kingdom, the nobles rely so much on their Therion slaves, and I fear a real kerfuffle may result, if not among the lower-classes than with the slaves themselves…”
“Mmmm… Yes! All of them!” I could hardly contain myself, as I devoured each word, and simultaneously recorded it to a blank page as I listened to his recitation, as these were meals I could thoroughly enjoy again and again.
When it came time for Bard Thoroman to leave that day, I couldn’t bear the thought of not tasting another of his stories.
“Wait!” I called out, feeling collywobbles at what I was about to do.
“Take me with you! Please! Please! Please!” I begged, extending my white hand outward.
He had a forlorn expression on his face.
“Ah, overcome with a bit of wanderlust, hmm? Not that I don’t appreciate your epizeuxis tone, Lady Word-Eater, but who would tend this library if you left? It is a mighty impressive collection.”
That inhuman smile crossed my lips once again. “Don’t you get it? I am the library. Where I go…”
“…it goes,” he finished as I nodded.
Warm fingers clasped around my hand.
For the first time in millenia, I stepped outside my own walls, and a beautiful spring field was left behind, as if a library had never stood there at all.
“Tell me a story!” I said as we started the journey to Cloverfield.
“Hmm… Well, have you ever heard of the Duchy of Endurn? Tiny place, really, but an interesting fact is that wearing the color purple is actually outlawed there, because despite the color being considered one of nobility, the Duchess herself has porphyrophobia! So imagine my surprise when I wore my purple tunic upon visiting, and all the townsfolk where shouting ‘Zagadoo!’ at me and throwing their less-than-ripe produce in my direction! So in order to turn things around…”
For the first time in millenia, I finally felt I was exactly where I needed to be.
This was written for the June Monthly Short Story Challenge from the Sims forums, which tasked folks to write a story in 500-1500 words using 1-12 screencaps using the theme “Balderdash.” This theme required the use of one unusual word from the following wordlist to be used in the story: dotish, epizeuxis, yokel, hornswoggle, lollygag, xenology, tarradiddle, necromancy, collywobbles, jejune, impavid, wanderlust, grandiloquent, porphyrophobia, bumbledom, kerfuffle, omphaloskepsis, zagadoo. I managed to use all of them (but admittedly may have stretched the definition on a few to make them work!) But I also threw in a few bonuses, like “bibliotaph” and my personal favorite, “defenestrate.” It is a completely stand-alone story, not using any characters from any of my other works (although it does take place in the same world as the upcoming Amazon Challenge I have in the planning stages, and makes references to a few locations and races in it… hmm, does this mean that Word-Eater and Bard Thoroman may show up again in The Therion Saga? Who knows!)
I’ll admit my inspiration for this is train-wrecking inspiratons from two different anime together to create the concept of Word-Eater: Dantalion no Shoka (The Mystic Archives of Dantalian) and Bungaku Shoujo (so nope, I’m not original at all… but I guess inspiration comes from those things you love, right?) Bard Tuomas Thoroman is actually based off the Simself of my friend Cody, who you might remember from Blogaversary: Year One. And that amazingly epic library? That build came from the one and only ValoisFulcanelli, and can be downloaded here; I’ve been itching to use it ever since she made it, so thank you so much, Valois! And finally, I think this is the closest I’ve come to hitting the word limit: my own software says 1498 words, but an online word-counter claims 1484 (probably reads my HTML tags differently, since I write directly into HTML formatting). Under either way by a nose, huzzah!