flash fiction,  in character,  Newsletter,  writing

The Labyrinthine Library – November 2022

man standing in a mysterious library, digital art style, illustration painting

Being the Ongoing Adventures of a Librarian Attempting to Tame a Feral Magical Library

The Word Mines

Have you ever wondered where stories come from?

No, writers don’t make them up. That would be silly.

Instead, ideas are mined.

Underneath the strange multi-dimensional space through which the Labyrinthine Library runs, are the Caverns of Possibility.

I was trying to find books on dragon slaying to get rid of that pesky beast in the Smoking Room, took a wrong turn, and found myself here.

Around me stretches the glittering gray stone, studded with glinting shards of crystal. Lit by the glow of my pipe, tiny scenes dance and burn within the visible veins of glowing ore. I glimpse castles and clouded skies, angry forests writhing in the wind, angular ruins piercing the air and rain stabbing down over cities, whose towers writhe like spider legs.

I wander through a maze of tunnels and switchbacks, watching princesses lean across castle parapets looking out to sea, and frenetic machines with a thousand parts whirling between the stars. My stomach rumbles.

I don’t know how to return to the Library, and my pot of lemongrass tea.

My librarian powers aren’t working. Is the Library being temperamental? Or am I in a space beyond its influence?

Ahead, something rings and clinks. Rushing forward, I stop at the edge of a cavern.

Miners work the glittering stone, teasing out the crystals and carefully placing them in floating ore carts. The workers aren’t human, elf or ogre—not even a dwarrow, as you might expect. Instead, they’re beings shaped from rock and metal itself—roughly formed figures of granite, basalt, marble and pyrite. Also, they’re wearing yellow hardhats, hi-vis vests and bulging leather shoes; the gear at odds with their rocky exteriors.

While humanoid, they lack discernable faces, so it’s likely they haven’t seen me as they drill and tap at the crystals—

“There!” A rough, gray figure points at me. “An intruder! You! Stop at once!”

I gather my librarian robes and tear off into the tunnel.

Perhaps this is the way out here!

I recognize this t-junction.

Maybe I can—

A roughly hewn sandstone shape squeezes out of the wall in front of me. “Halt!” they intone in a rumbling voice. A stomping sound rings behind me, and a granite form with a head that’s river-stone smooth cuts me off. Their yellow hardhat offsets their blank, menacing expression.

“Wait,” I raise my hands, apologetic. “I didn’t mean to stumble upon your mines, good, uh, person. I’m a librarian for the Labyrinthine Library and I got lost and—“

“It is not a criminal act to watch us mine,” the figure rumbles in a gravelly voice. “However, you are incorrectly attired for the area. You are not wearing correct PPE for conceptual space. You could be sucked into a idea void, or be infected by dangerous memes.”

“Oh. Well, if you could escort me away from the mines—”

“No, we must follow the operating procedures. You are to remain on site until you read, and comply with all safety protocols for the Caverns of Possibility.”

“Certainly!” After all, I’m a librarian and I love books. It won’t take long for me to get through a few technical manuals.

They march me to the cavern where the rest of the miners work.

“I’m Ivarlis. What’s your name?”

“We do not have individual names,” the sandstone humanoid behind me says as we walk through the narrow tunnels. A nearby crystal depicts a desert griffin descending on a silver-horned antelope.

“What do you call yourselves then?”

The shape sighs. “We are… gnomes. Stone elementals. I am not fond of our depictions in the modern world. We do not have beards, red caps and jolly expressions. Such things are inefficient for mining operations.”

“Uh, I see.” I smooth my wispy hair and regard the bright fluorescent pink vest of the gnome in front of me. “Do elementals working in a mine, even one such as this, need PPE?”

“It is a question of correct process,” the granite gnome says. “We strive to comply with standards of excellence.”

They lead me through a breakroom—where a sign on the wall says ‘1,000 years since the last OH&S incident’ and where off-duty gnomes sit at metal tables, consuming plates of gravel and talking about regulation tool sizes—to an enormous cavern crammed with stone tablets. There must be thousands here! I pick up heavy tablet and read: “Section 20034B. Ensure that safety shoes are worn at all times. These ensure that idea crystals are not damaged upon your approach. Allow for a gap of five centimeters at the end of the shoe—”

“Look,” I tell my guides. “There’s an awful to get through here. Could I return to my Library and have some tea?”

“No,” the sandstone gnome says. “You will stay until you have read all the documentation, and you agree to comply with the standards.” He blocks the entrance with a menacing air.

Bother. I’m trapped! At least I’ll be very safe…

Hopefully, I’ll escape in time for next month’s update. Until then, be careful around the safety gnomes…

Reflections on the Anniversary of My Descent: Part Five

Oh yes, while reading about the best way to polish and care for one’s mining pick, I’ve taken a break to read the latest chapter of our ongoing serial!

Vex made a pact with a demon to avenge her boyfriend! Only to find that her supposed true love may have lied to her about everything. To find out the truth, Vex returns home to the Diamond Ward to dig up uncomfortable secrets…

Episode #5 [requires newsletter membership; may not work at some point when Vex decides to re-write the manuscript for publication]

Grab your back issues here:

Previously on….[requires newsletter membership; may not work at some point when Vex decides to re-write the manuscript for publication]

How to Survive in the Vestige World

And what’s this? Mr Skycastle has written another blog article about surviving in the supernatural world. You can join a faction, or make a pact. (He doesn’t mention staying in bed, that’s always worked for me…)

How to Survive, Some More

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