I was born in Ireland, in 1972. My family lived in the country, we were pretty self-sufficient. My father worked as a blacksmith and my mother wove fabrics. We would sell our things in the nearby town. I had an older brother named Finn. We were the best of friends. Finn was only a week older than me, but I always felt like the older brother. We looked alike to the point where people thought we were twins. As we got older we didn't really change, we just got bigger. We had shocks of red curls and freckles were splattered across our faces. Pa said the only way he could tell us apart was by our freckles.
When I was around five, Pa found a cave nearby that was full of metal ore. Where Pa found more metal to do his craft, Finn and I had found a new place to play. The cave wasn’t all twists and turns, it was, in essence, a tunnel with veins of ore lining the walls and various holes to hide in. We would play hide and seek in the cave.
I found the library when I was eight. I was wandering around the cave alone, I think my brother was at a friend’s house in town, when I noticed a hole that wasn’t there before. I crawled through it and suddenly found myself in a tall expansive building, with shelves full of books miles high. The floors were made of marble, with mosaic paths running through it. The shelves were made of oak. The books were of all kinds; paperback, leather, plastic, any type of backing you can think of. I even saw some scrolls and clay tablets. Needless to say, I was amazed out of my mind. I wandered around, gaping at the shelves before I heard a voice, “Welcome to the Library, how may I be of service?”
I remember how startled I was to see a librarian at first. She had dark brown hair and pale skin, of course she didn't have any eyes like all the librarians. When I gasped at her lack of eyes she realized this was my first time and quickly explained how it worked.
"Judging by your reaction, this is your first time. Let me explain. The library is home to every book ever written, most books that will be written, and some books that never will be written. I am a librarian, we serve the library in penance for past crimes against it." I calmed down as she explained. Even though I lived in the country, I was an avid reader, I was really into fantasy. Finn was more into science fiction. I quickly accepted that this was real and I was not dreaming. She helped me make my library card. I still remember how warm that flat square of gold felt in my hand. I entered the library and browsed some books. I found one that caught my eye. It was called, The Autobiography of Angus O’Rafferty, the Liberator.I thought it was cool to read about someone who shared my name. So I started to read the above text that I just wrote. I remembered that the librarian said that some books in the library were not written as of yet. Thus, not wanting to spoil what’s coming next, quickly closed the book and put it back in the shelf.
I continued wandering around, admiring the Library. Even more spectacular than the library was the patrons. A saw so many creatures wandering around and reading books I was familiar with. I saw what looked like a gorilla covered in blue fur reading The Lord of the Rings. I saw a child sized creature reading Dr. Seuss. I was curious, so I went to take a closer look. It was about three feet tall and covered in brown scales. Instead of hair, it had a mass of brown quills. It noticed me looking at it and turned to look at me. It seemed to be examining me just like I was examining it.
"H-hello," I started, not sure if it even spoke English.
It grinned, baring needle-like teeth, and then it spoke English fluently. It had a lisp as it talked. "Wow, a real human. I've never ssseen one up closssse before. My name isss Kuga. What'sss yourss?"
"I'm Angus, what do you call yourself Kuga? Like, I'm a human and you're…?"
"I'm a Skitaari. Do you want to be friendsss?"
I laugh at how strange this whole thing is. I'm in a mystical library, talking to a lizard man, reading The Cat in the Hat, and he's asking to be my friend. "Why not? How old are you, Kuga?"
"I am around eight human years old, You?"
"The same. Kuga, how long have you been coming to the Library?"
"My mother says Ssshe hass been taking me here sssssince I wass an Egg."
"I just got here today."
Kuga gives me a sidelong glance, "You ssseem okay with all thisss going on."
I laugh, "Yeah, I actually have been wanting something interesting like this to happen for a while. Oh, man, I'd better go, my parents are probably getting worried."
I look behind me as I run off and Kuga waves a goodbye.
I wander around for a few minutes before finding the hole I crawled through before. I run back to my house as night was falling. When I came back, my parents scolded me for coming home late and asked me where I was. I considered telling them about the Library, feeling my card grow warm in my pocket.
I decided against it, "I was in the cave playing by myself and forgot what time it was."
I was going to keep the Library my own little secret.
Nothing eventful really happened from there on until I was sixteen. I had developed into a routine. I did my household chores and whenever I had a chance, I would go to the Library and read. I spent a lot of time with Kuga, I was even able to learn a bit of his language, I couldn't speak it though. It was a series of grunts, hisses, trills, and sounds I don't even know how to describe. I learned to understand it though. I told him a bit about how my world works, and he told me about his. If you don't know about the Skitaari, their world works like this, a series of warlords, called Kra'sus, rule over their various tribes. They don't fight with armies, they send specialized warriors, called Kra'sans, to fight in single combat over resources that would normally be warred over in other worlds. The fights aren't deadly in any way, they have become a sport of sorts. They only use armies to defend against various beasts that attack the settlements. Two rival tribes will often band together in order to defend against large attacks. Kuga also told me of various customs and small etiquettes used by his tribe.
I told him about war in my world and he seemed appalled. After that I tried to avoid talking about it. Kuga was very interested in Human poetry. I enjoyed seeing Skitaari artwork. They were masters at making paintings that seem to move and tell stories. They were usually supplements to various works of fiction and non-fiction. As you read, the picture seemed to flow from one scene to the next. When I asked Kuga how they did this, he just shrugged.
Back at home, my Pa was preparing a weird rite of passage thing. According to him, to be a real man, you have to craft some sort of sword and go hunt a deer with it. Now, I wasn't thinking of any dangerous implications that came with hunting deer, I just thought how awesome it would be to craft a freaking sword. Pa has a bunch of swords he crafted lying around, he let us take a few swings with them at a bunch of dummies he keeps in our yard. The weapons took a few days to properly forge. Finn made a large, two handed claymore. It was fairly plain, no overt decoration. Just a sword for hitting things with. It made up for this lack of decoration with being so damn huge. I made a smaller sword, it was a hand-and a-half-sword. I could easily use it with one or two hands. I had the speed where Finn had power. I went all out with decoration though. I went for a stylized blade. It was thinner towards the hilt, but the thinner part had two spikes curving outward. I inscribed my name along the blade.
After we finished up with our swords, he sent us out. "Now, be careful boys. Work together and you'll make it out alright. Go and make your old man proud."
We trudged off into the woods. We found our first deer surprisingly fast. It was an adult male, it stood guard over the rest of the herd. We did exactly what we were taught. We stayed downwind of them and watched for an opportunity.
“I have an idea,” I whispered to Finn, “I’ll move around to one side and you to the other, I’ll scare them over to you and you get one. Try not to get trampled.”
“Alright, be careful man.”
I picked my way through leaf litter and sticks, trying to make as little noise as possible. Once I got into position, I waited a little before scaring them. When the time came, I rapped my sword as hard as possible on the side of a nearby tree. The resulting sound caused all of the deer to sprint in the opposite direction of the sound. I heard Finn shout and a deer screech. I walked across the clearing to where Finn was. He was wiping his sword on the grass before sheathing it. The deer was destroyed. It used to be a male, a pretty sizable one too. It was almost bisected in half, half meaning front half and left half. It was cut just below the ribs. The shock killed it instantly. I smiled at Finn and he smiled back.
“We did it Bro!” He cheered.
“Yeah, now we just have to bring it back.”
We both took a half and slung it over our shoulders. I took the back half. I was excited, looking forward to seeing how proud Pa would be. I also got a sword out of it. The walk back was uneventful. We didn’t talk much, too preoccupied with how well the hunt went.
When we got home, it was exactly how I imagined it would be. Pa and Ma celebrated our safe return. Pa declared us men. We had venison for dinner and life was good.
The week after the rite of passage, I had my first experience with the Book Burners. I was browsing the library when I heard the sound of gunfire. I ran towards the sound and was met with a scene of carnage. I watched from behind a shelf as armed men were shooting at any librarians or patrons they could find. I saw a spider looking creature bleeding from multiple gun wounds nearby. I ran from cover and dragged her to safety. As I dragged her I felt bullets rush by me. One scraped my cheek. Just as I got to cover a Docent rushes by me and tackles one of the gunmen to the ground. It quickly goes down under sustained gunfire. A Page clings to a shelf above me and stares, unsure of what to do.
“Hey!” I call to him, “Help me get some survivors to safety!”
He nods and quickly swings down to grab a family of Dryads cowering under the Librarian’s desk, next to its owner’s slumped body. Between the two of us and the Docents distracting the gunmen, we manage to save a total of twenty patrons. Unfortunately, we quite a few died in the attack. After the Page and I got the patrons to safety, I asked the Page to find someone with medical training.
I crouched next to the spider creature I saved earlier. She looked like a cross between a human and a spider. But it wasn’t a freaky combination that creeped me out, it was surprisingly natural looking. She had a slim feminine body with one pair of arms and a centaur style set of spider legs. Her entire body was covered in a black carapace and green fluid oozed from the gunshot wounds.
“It’s going to be okay,” I assured her, “I sent a Page to get some medical treatment.”
She smiles weakly and hisses something that sounds like gratitude from the tone. I check with each of the wounded and give them the same reassurance. Not all of them spoke English, but I’m sure all of them got the sentiment. The Page came back with a human who carried around a medical bag. I remember seeing him in the Library before. I asked him if there was anything I could do to help. He waved me off, thanking me and saying I’ve helped enough. He can take it from here. As I walked off, the Dryad family came up to me and thanked me. Various other patrons did the same, friends and family, I guess. A few of them called me a hero. I waved them off, saying it was the best thing to do at the time.