Old Demon and the Sea Witch (Welcome to Hell #9) - Eve Langlais
Shax: Have you read the book, How to Train your Goblins? Don’t. It’s a lie!
The little green bastard fired a first edition of Pet Sematary, signed by the King himself, at me. I winced as it hit a bookcase and flopped open to the ground, the pages bent.
“What do you think you’re doing?” I roared, appalled at the travesty.
The goblin stuck out his tongue and grabbed a worn but enjoyable romantic story about a demon and his witch. Based on a true story, and a favorite of the staff.
The bastard wound his arm back, ready to toss.
I shoved up my sleeves and prepared to catch. It wouldn’t be the first time.
Once more, goblins had snuck into Hell’s epic library. It used to be known as the Ashurbanipal, but that was when it was on the Earth plane. Back when I was still kind of human. Before the incident.
With the Ashurbanipal in peril, the librarians at the time, including me, had made a deal with the devil. I got a pair of horns and an extended lifespan. Lucifer got to boast about owning the most extensive library anywhere, and I got to deal with stupid shit like leather-parchment-eating worms and goblins. Neither of which had any respect for the literary word.
And where there was one…
Another book almost clocked me in the head. War and No Peace, the alternate ending that added a few hundred additional pages. It would have hurt if it’d landed.
I glared, about all I could do until the library acolytes arrived with the lassos. Good thing our last batch of recruits had been practicing.
People often made the mistake of assuming that librarians were meek scholars with the muscle tone of a human centenarian. Maybe on Earth, but here in the Pit, working the library meant staying fit. Because Hell’s library didn’t give up its knowledge easily. Bringing it to Hell imbued it with certain challenges. Now, it required quick wits and agile strength to find what you were looking for. The deaths of those who failed probably explained the lack of interest in reading.
The funniest were those who assumed they could cockily enter and do the job of a guardian of the stacks. They didn’t believe us when we told them that magic was forbidden inside the library, as were candles—any sort of flame, actually. Sharp-edged objects, even letter openers, had to remain outside the guarded doors. There were some priceless books in here. Irreplaceable ones that could never, ever have a copy. Some could not be read by anyone. Some knowledge should remain hidden, but never be destroyed. The library existed to protect wisdom and history.
Anything that might possibly damage a book found itself held outside the doors. At times it was a wonder anyone made it through the powerful magnet that yanked at your flesh as if it would strip out your teeth and bones.
Yet it somehow couldn’t stop goblins. Nor the dragon that decided to squat on the Dungeons and Dragons section. But we let her have that hoard mostly because we kept the Salvatore books elsewhere.
I ducked before a sudden volley of books—fired by more than one green goblin—could rain on me. It required some fast footwork to leap, grab, tuck a book before flipping to snare another and another. I was a veritable acrobat, catching all the paperbacks before they could land.
Except for one.
The original Wizard of Oz manuscript by L. Frank Baum, a first draft handwritten with all the dark, yummy bits before they got edited out to become the modern-day classic. It landed hard enough to snap the binder holding all the loose sheets. They spilled onto the floor.
The goblins, a chattering sort, fell silent. Did they hear the anger ticking inside of me?
Thump. Thump. Thump. One by one, I placed the books I’d managed to save on the table.
“Ergh blag?” The goblin closest to me appeared apprehensive.
With good reason. Because there were some lines even they knew to never cross.
Jerod, a student of mine, arrived with a lasso. Out of breath, and like an idiot, he ran right into the middle of the problem.
But the goblins ignored him to watch me. I held out my hand. The lasso hit my palm.
There was a squeal as the little bastards split, racing through the stacks. As if they could escape.
I twirled the lasso, whipping it out, the circle rotating, nice and tight. I would have to go hunting, and the aisles didn’t leave much room.
I tracked down the first one in the dead