The Unshelved Library

Aaron’s attention was drawn back to Kevin Galwynn, who apparently had come to a decision about what to do next, but was still perplexed about how to do it. Kevin stroked his chin for a while, then snapped his fingers and began rummaging deep inside the voluminous pockets of his tunic. Galwynn’s tunic was a perquisite of his position as Master of Enlightenment, and its deep pockets were full of wonders. Kevin reached deep inside a pocket past his elbow, felt around awkwardly for a bit, then suddenly grinned and pulled out a large, timeworn, leather-bound book with a dove’s wing embossed on its front and back covers. The book was titled, The Unshelved Library.

Lacking a lectern, Kevin rested the book in the crook of his arm, brushed off the dust of ages with his other hand, and then opened the book’s cover. Abruptly, like a conceited swan spreading its majestic wings to display their grandeur, the embossed wings on the book covers burst from their surfaces to become lifelike sculptural wings with length, breadth, and depth. The wings beat with unnatural slowness, as if seen in a dream, which caused the book to hover motionless in midair. Kevin obviously expected this behavior and ignored the fact the tome was levitating on thin air, while he flipped through the book’s pages, looking for something.

“What is that book?” Aaron exclaimed. Flying books were obviously not something he was used to.

Without looking up or interrupting his search, Kevin said the tome was a compendium of useful facts and figures, hard-won wisdom, trivial but utilitarian enchantments, and instructions for making useful tools and devices. “‘It contains about everything practical worth knowing in the world,” Kevin averred. 

The book was quite thick, Aaron had to agree, but he doubted it was thick enough to contain the world’s knowledge. Nonetheless, the more pages Kevin thumbed through, the more pages seemed to appear out of nowhere to be thumbed through, while the unneeded pages riffled by and disappeared. 

“Of course, that’s what I need,” Kevin muttered, triumphantly. “Clarty dust.”

Kevin reread the directions in The Unshelved Library, then searched through his toolbox and pulled out a container of clarty binding dust, a short wooden handle, a length of silver wire, and a swatch of perforated leather. Then Kevin assembled those components into a round, drumstick hammer. Aaron asked about the hammer, and Galwynn said, “Whenever you strike a thing with the hammer, a sprinkle of clarty dust seeps out the perforations and coats the thing.” 

Then Galwynn took two scraps of wood from the lid of a crate; tapped each scrap with the hammer; pressed the two pieces together into an intersecting cross; and then asked Aaron to try to pull the pieces apart. Aaron was a strapping young soldier, and was amused that Master Galwynn should ask him to perform such a simple task. 

Aaron grabbed two branches of the cross and casually tried to pull it apart. He failed. Looking a bit chagrined, Aaron girded himself for a second try and then strained his utmost to tear the cross apart. But again, he failed; he couldn’t do it. The two scraps were bound together so tightly that they seemed to be one solid piece of wood.

Kevin explained, “The enchantment that suffuses the clarty dust—that is, binding dust or mending dust, if you prefer—binds together things that are broken and makes straight again things that are bent.” Then he added, with a wink, “And if you happen to pick up the hammer, just be careful to not get any clarty dust on your hands before you go to the thunder pot.”

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