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Pictsies, apes, and evil tomes, oh my! by Pookha
Chapter 1: Pictsies, apes and evil tomes, oh my!
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Luna looked up from her book. The noise came again from somewhere to the left, near the Restricted Section.
“Och, watch yerself, Jock.”
Luna slipped on her Spectrespecs™ and leaned out of her chair to peer around the corner. A six-inch tall blue man with red hair and a kilt was arguing with another small blue man, all the while keeping a large grimoire balanced on his head.
“I tol’ ye we took a wrong turn when we did the crawstep,” said the second man.
“ ‘Tis nae possible to take a wrong turn when ye take the crawstep, ye ken?”
The small men crept away toward the Restricted Section. Luna stood quietly and went to the Faerology section. She took down a slim book with a title in Ogham. She returned to her seat and flipped open the book to an illustration of a small blue man with a confused or concussed looking cow being carried upside-down on the small man’s back.
A cheer came faintly from the Quidditch pitch, where Hufflepuff and Slytherin were playing.
She carefully read the runes under the picture and then flipped the book upside-down to read through the caption again. She smiled and sat the book down on the table. She slid her chair over to another table to get a better look.
The two small men had made it to the Restricted Section, but they struggled to get through the seemingly open doorway. The one with the grimoire on his head took a step into the doorway before getting repelled by an unseen force. The grimoire landed on the floor. Luna got a good look at the title as it fell, Achmed the I Just Get These Headaches's Book of Humorous Cat Stories.
"So it's like that is it?" The one who had been toting the grimoire took a couple of steps back and lowered his head. He charged the doorway. Through her Spectrespecs™ she saw him hit the ward that protected the Restricted Area from entry from anyone without written permission from Madame Pince. The ward actually shimmered and flickered. He stepped back and repeated the process three more times, with the ward buckling a little more each time.
He was just getting ready to step back and do it again when the other man tapped him on his shoulder. “Jock, someone’s watching us.”
Jock whipped his head around and saw Luna looking at him.
“ ‘Tis nobbut a wee bairn, nothin’ to fache oursels aboot.” Jock said.
“Nay, I think she’s a hag.” The second man pointed at Luna’s pointed black hat sitting next to her on the table.
Jock’s gaze followed the other’s pointing hand.
“Oh, waily, waily, waily, ‘tis a hag!” He picked up the grimoire and ran off with it in the direction of the entrance to the library.
Luna put on her hat and followed him, hardly being able to keep pace with him. He tried hiding behind a stack of books, but with her Spectrespecs™, she could easily see the miasma of odours coming off him.
“Hello,” she said to the stack of books. “I know you’re in there Jock. You might as well come out. I promise to not harm you.”
Jock peeked around the stack of books. “Oh great hag, I’m sorry to hae bothered ye. I was just trying to return yon tome.” He pushed the grimoire out with his foot.
Close up, Luna noticed the latch holding the book closed gleamed with malevolence. Its oily look warned her away from touching it.
“Why are you trying to put that book in the Restricted Section?” she asked.
The second man’s voice came from behind the stack of books. “We certainly didn’t steal it to bring it here from the University at Ankh-Morpork.” Jock’s head disappeared, there was the sound of a quick scuffle then his head reappeared.
“Sorry, we dinnae lie to a hag. We took yon tome from the library to bring it here. It was a geese put on us by an evil wizard, ye ken.”
“A what?” Luna asked. “A goose, like a big bird?”
“Nay, like an order or a compulsion.” The wee man said.
“Ah, a geas,” she said, pronouncing it correctly. “Why did the wizard put this geas on you?”
He hung his head. “I dunno, but we gotta put it in there quick-like afore the Librarian catches us.”
“Madame Pince certainly won’t want this in her library.” Luna poked at the book, but carefully didn’t touch it.
“Nay, not your librarian, the Librarian where we took this from, ye ken. He’s a giant big monkey-like.” Jock looked around.
“Tell me about…” Luna started to say, but was interrupted by a loud “Ook!” from somewhere across the library.
“Oh, waily, waily, waily, we’re too late, he’s here!” Jock picked up the grimoire again and ran headlong at the wards to the Restricted Area. This time they failed with a bright flash of light and a klaxon.
Luna stepped aside just in time as an orangutan wearing a badge on a chain around its (no his, definitely his) neck ran around the corner, holding onto shelves with his hands and feet. He narrowly avoided her, and gave her a nod at the same time in apology. He reached the wee man just as he was about to shelve the book. He grabbed Jock and gripped him tightly. Jock dropped the grimoire and the orangutan pulled back his foot so it didn’t touch him.
The orangutan had just started to squeeze Jock when the second little man ran at him full speed, jumped up and head-butted the orangutan with the sound of a rifle crack. Both the wee man and the orangutan staggered; Jock took the opportunity to try to prise off the orangutan’s fingers, but the ape held him tightly. He reached down and grabbed the second man in his other hand, and then climbed to the top of the stacks with him. He shook them both violently while yelling at them.
“Ook! Eek! Ook! Ook!”
Luna heard footsteps and saw Madame Pince come running into the aisle, her wand drawn. She lowered it when she saw the orangutan.
“Librarian,” she said. “What are you doing in my library again?”
“Ook,” he said, shamefacedly, shaking the wee men and pointing at the book with his foot.
“That filthy thing again!” She shouted. “You were supposed to lock it away and make sure it never bothered anyone again.”
“Ook.” He shook the wee men again.
“Yes, but it was your responsibility to make sure that that wizard couldn’t do that. He should never have been allowed to be influenced by this, this thing, and he certainly shouldn’t have been able to set a geas on a Nac Mac Feegle.”
“Oh, waily…” began Jock but a stare from Madame Pince stopped him. She crossed her arms and glared.
“Oh no, it’s the crossin’ of the arms!” the other man shouted.
“Well, only one thing for this.” Madame Pince said. She pointed at Jock. “Hold that one still,” she told the Librarian.
The Librarian squeezed Jock even tighter. Madame Pince muttered an incantation and touched Jock with her wand. There was a bright flash and the smell of brimstone.
“You next.” She repeated the process with the second man.
“Better?” she asked. “Do you still feel the need to put this filthy book in my library?”
“Nae, nae, we don’t, do we?” Jock replied. The other man shook his head violently.
“You can let them go.”
The Librarian dropped them from the top of the shelf. They landed on the ground with solid ‘thunks’ that belied their size.
“Pardon, me, Madame Pince, but can you understand the orangutan?” Luna asked.
Madame Pince whirled around, her wand at the ready. She lowered it when she noticed Luna.
“Yes, of course, we librarians can all understand each other.” Her eyes narrowed. “Shouldn’t you be at the Quidditch match?”
“You gave me permission to study in the library while the matches were going on, remember?”
“Oh, yes, I forgot. Pardon me, Miss Lovegood.” She turned back to the Librarian.
“Can you please get that thing out of here and make sure it doesn’t come back?”
“Ook!” he shouted, pointing at the book.
“I know you can’t touch it without a gauntlet, but there must be something you can do.”
“It’s not my fault you weren’t prepared, you mangy ape.” Madame Pince said fondly.
“Pardon me, Madam, Mr Librarian,” Luna said. “But it appears the Pictsies (for they were so labeled in the book she had found) can touch the book with no ill effect. Can they carry it back for the Librarian and then put it away for him?”
The Librarian smiled, showing quite a lot of teeth and gums.
“Capital idea, Miss Lovegood. You there, Feegle.” She pointed at Jock. “You will take this book back with the Librarian and will put it where he says.” She leaned close to Jock’s face. “You understand?”
He gulped and nodded. “I understan’.” He turned to the Librarian. “After we return yon tome and make sure it’s good and safe, will you help us hunt doon the evil wizard who put this geese on us?”
The Librarian grinned one of his scary grins again.
“Ook.” He held out his hand to Jock. Jock picked up the book and stood on the Librarian’s hand. The other man climbed the Librarian’s leg and clung to his back. The Librarian bowed to Luna and then Madam Pince. With a weird sideways step that Luna couldn’t clearly see even with her Spectrespecs™, he disappeared.
“Please help me put these wards back up on the Restricted Area,” Madame Pince said.
Luna took her wand from behind her ear and began helping to repair the wards.
Later, Ginny asked her how she spent her day and shook her head in disbelief at Luna’s story of small blue men in the library and an evil tome. She assumed that Luna had fallen asleep in the Library again and had a marvelous dream.
A/N The Wee Free Men, the Librarian, Achmed the I Just Get These Headaches's Book of Humorous Cat Stories all belong to the late, great Terry Pratchett. If you’ve not read the Discworld books, then most of this may not make any sense to you.