Read A Tale of Magic... Online

Authors: Brandon Dorman

A Tale of Magic... (8 page)

B
rystal read more books in just two weeks of cleaning the library than she had in her entire life. By the end of her first month, she had devoured every title on the ground floor and was working her way through the second level.
Her quick consumption rate was thanks to an efficient schedule she developed early on: Each evening, Brystal dusted the shelves, mopped the floors, polished the silver globe, and wiped the surfaces as fast as she possibly could. When the cleaning was finished, Brystal selected a book—or a few books if it was the weekend—and snuck them back to her house. Once she finished washing the dishes from her family’s dinner, Brystal would lock herself in her bedroom and spend the rest of the night reading. The following evening, Brystal would return what she had borrowed and her secret routine would start all over again.

Brystal couldn’t believe how quickly her life had changed. In just one month, she went from having an emotional breakdown in public to the most exciting and stimulating time she had ever experienced. Working at the library gave her access to biographies, encyclopedias, dictionaries, anthologies, and textbooks that expanded her grasp of reality, and it introduced her to works of fiction, poetry, and prose that expanded her imagination beyond her wildest dreams. But perhaps most gratifying of all, Brystal found the library’s copy of
The Tales of Tidbit Twitch
and finally learned how the story ended:

Tidbit reached in all directions as he fell off the side of the cliff, but there was nothing to grab hold of. He feared his fall would come to a brutal end against the rocky earth, but by some miracle, the mouse plunged into a rushing river instead. The dragon swooped down the cliff and flew over Tidbit as he floated in the river. The monster tried to swipe the mouse from the powerful stream, but the water was moving too fast for the dragon to get a steady grip.
Tidbit thrashed around the river as it swept him toward a towering waterfall. As he rolled over the edge, the dragon dived after him with wide-open jaws. The mouse was convinced these were his last moments alive—he would either be consumed by the monster above him, or collide with the boulders at the base of the waterfall. As he fell farther and farther, the dragon dived closer and closer, and soon the creature’s sharp teeth encompassed him in midair.

Just before the monster sank its teeth into the falling mouse, Tidbit fell through a small crack between the boulders at the bottom of the waterfall, and he safely dropped into the lake at the river’s end. When Tidbit surfaced in the water, he saw the dragon was spread out across the rocks behind him, lying lifeless with a broken neck.

Tidbit washed ashore and took his first deep breath in years. With the dragon finally defeated, the Kingdom of Mice was free from the reign of terror at last. The world welcomed a new era of much-needed peace, and it was all thanks to a tiny mouse who braved a big monster.
Naturally, Brystal’s new routine was exhausting. She only managed to sleep for an hour or two each night, but the excitement of getting to read more the next day energized her like a drug. However, Brystal found clever ways of resting so she wasn’t
entirely
sleep deprived.

During Mrs. Plume’s lessons at school, Brystal tied a quill to her fingers and lowered her gaze so she appeared to be taking notes, but was actually taking a much-needed nap instead. On one occasion, while her classmates learned how to apply makeup, Brystal used the supplies to draw pupils on her eyelids so no one noticed she was sleeping through the demonstrations. At lunch, while the other girls went to the bakery in the town square, Brystal visited the furniture store and “tested the products” until the owners caught on.

On the weekends, Brystal snoozed in between her chores at the Evergreen house. At church, she spent the majority of the service with her eyes closed, pretending to pray. Luckily, her brothers did the same thing, so her parents never noticed.

Aside from the fatigue, Brystal thought her scheme was going very smoothly and she didn’t face anywhere near as much suspicion as she had feared. She only saw her family for a few minutes each morning, so there wasn’t much time for them to question her about her daily activities. Everyone was so focused on Barrie’s inaugural weeks as a Deputy Justice that they never even asked about her volunteering for the Home for the Hopeless. Still, Brystal had developed stories about feeding the hungry and bathing the sick in case she needed them.

The only hitch happened at the beginning of her second month of employment. One evening Brystal entered the library to find Mr. Woolsore on his hands and knees searching under the furniture.

“Mr. Woolsore? Can I help you with something?” she asked.

“I’m looking for
Champions of the Champions, Volume 3
,” Mr. Woolsore explained. “A student requested it this afternoon and it’s vanished from the shelves.”

Unbeknownst to the librarian, Brystal had borrowed
Champions of the Champions, Volume 3
the night before. She pulled her coat a little tighter around her shoulders so the librarian wouldn’t see that the book was tucked under her arm.

“I’m sure it’s here somewhere,” she said. “Would you like me to help you look?”

“No, no, no,” he grumped, and got to his feet. “The assistant librarian probably filed it incorrectly—
idiot man
! Just leave it on the counter if it shows up while you’re cleaning.”

Once Mr. Woolsore was gone, Brystal left
Champions of the Champions, Volume 3
on the counter. It was a simple remedy to a simple situation, but Brystal didn’t want to experience a
closer
call to getting caught. To avoid any future risk, Brystal decided it would be wise if she stopped sneaking books home altogether. From then on, after she finished cleaning, Brystal stayed at the library to read. Sometimes she didn’t return home until the early hours of the morning and had to sneak back into the house through a window.

At first, Brystal welcomed the change to her schedule. The empty library was very peaceful at night and the perfect place to get lost in a good book. Sometimes the moon shone so brightly through the glass ceiling she didn’t even need a lantern to see the pages. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before Brystal became
too comfortable
with the new setup.

One morning Brystal was awoken by the cathedral bells—but they were different this morning. Instead of the distant ringing that gradually stirred her awake, a thunderous clanging caused her to jump to her feet. The noise was so sudden and alarming it was discombobulating. When she finally gained consciousness of her whereabouts, Brystal received her second shock of the morning—she wasn’t standing in her bedroom.
She was still at the library!

“Oh no!” she gasped. “I fell asleep reading! Father will be furious if he realizes I’ve been gone all night! I’ve got to get home before Mother notices my bed is empty!”

Brystal tucked her reading glasses into the top of her dress, stashed the books she had been reading on the nearest shelf, and ran out of the library as fast as she could. Outside, the cathedral bells were causing a hurricane of noise in the town square. Brystal covered her ears and had trouble staying upright as she was hit by wave after wave of sound. She dashed down the path toward the eastern countryside and reached the Evergreen home just as the final bell tolled. When she arrived, Mrs. Evergreen was standing on the front porch, frantically looking in every direction for her daughter. Her shoulders sank almost an entire foot when she saw Brystal approaching.

“Where on God’s green earth have you been?” she yelled. “You had me worried half to death! I almost sent for the King’s Royal Guard!”

“I’m so sorry, Mother!” Brystal panted. “I—I—I can explain—”

“There better be a good reason why you weren’t in your bed this morning!”

“It—it—it was an accident!” Brystal said, and quickly fabricated an excuse. “I was up late making beds at the Home for the Hopeless.… The beds looked so comfortable I couldn’t resist lying down.… The next thing I heard were the bells this morning! Oh, please forgive me! I’ll go inside and do the dishes from dinner right away!”

Brystal tried to go inside the house, but Mrs. Evergreen blocked the front door.

“This isn’t about the dishes!” her mother said. “You can’t imagine the fright you gave me! I convinced myself you were lying dead in an alley somewhere! Don’t ever do that to me again!
Ever!

“I won’t, I promise,” Brystal said. “Honestly, it was just a silly accident. I didn’t mean to worry you. Please don’t tell Father about this. If he finds out I was gone all night, he’ll never let me volunteer at the Home for the Hopeless again.”

Brystal was in such a panic she couldn’t tell if her performance was convincing or not. The look behind her mother’s eyes was difficult to decipher, too. Mrs. Evergreen seemed convinced
and
unconvinced at the same time—like she knew her daughter wasn’t telling the truth but was
choosing
to believe her lies.

“This
volunteering
…,” Mrs. Evergreen said. “Whatever it entails, you must be more careful if you don’t want to lose it. Your father will have no problem taking it away if he thinks it’s making you irresponsible.”

“I know,” Brystal said. “And it’ll never happen again. I swear.”

Mrs. Evergreen nodded and softened her stern glare. “Good. I may only see you for a few minutes each morning, but I can tell volunteering is making you happy,” she said. “You’ve been a different person since you started. It’s nice to see you so content. I would hate for anything to change that.”

“It makes me
very
happy, Mother,” Brystal said. “Actually, I didn’t realize I could
be
so happy.”

Despite her daughter’s excitement, something about Brystal’s enthusiasm made Mrs. Evergreen noticeably sad.

“Well, that’s wonderful, dear,” she said with an unconvincing smile. “I’m pleased to hear it.”

“You don’t seem very pleased,” Brystal said. “What’s the matter, Mother? Am I not supposed to be happy?”

“What? No, of course not. Everyone deserves a little happiness now and then.
Everyone
. And nothing makes me happier than knowing you’re happy, it’s just… it’s just…”

“What?”

Mrs. Evergreen smiled at her daughter again, but this time Brystal knew it was genuine.

“I just miss having you around, that’s all,” she admitted. “Now get upstairs before your father or brothers see you. I’ll do the dishes while you wash up. When you’re finished you can help me in the kitchen. Happiness or no happiness, breakfast doesn’t cook itself.”

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