Flash Friday 13/05/2016: A Tome and a Place
Able knelt down in the radiant forest, peered at a tiny door embedded at the bottom of a tree-trunk and knocked at it with a knuckle three times.
Able always found himself at the strangest of places for his work. Necromancer’s castle. High elf’s floating city. Now, a forest rich with magic and filled to the brim with all sorts of magical beings. The job wasn’t exactly adventurous, but at least the locales were nice.
Unfortunately, sometimes the people weren’t.
The fae were known for their cheerful disposition and their desire to help all living things, great and small. The one that opened the door wore a scowl that showed that love and kindness was a bygone thought.
“Finally,” she spat. “I was about to find a small rabbit to strangle.”
“Glad I could be of help,” Able said, tipping his cap. “What’s the problem, missus?”
“First of all, it’s Aerya, Lady of the Lilacs. Secondly, you know why you’re here. It’s your asshole company that makes the books go all wonky one week after the warranty expires. Let me bring the damn thing out, spirits know you’re not cramming your backside into my home.”
Able was used to being verbally stabbed with ‘warranty’, ‘insurance’ and ‘guarantee’. What the company did was their business, however; his was to tinker with funky magical items until they worked, and to see the smile on people’s faces.
The spellbook was thrown out of the fae’s door.
“There, fix it.” The fae gestured with a hand dismissively at the book on the ground. “I don’t know what’s wrong with it. All I know is that there’s now a deer out there that’s coloured hot pink and probably won’t be trusting my spells any time soon.”
“Oh.” Able squatted down, peering at the tiny book. “Very nice model, that one. I think that’s the Spellweaver, Unicorn edition. Very, very nice. Good spell display. Excellent page turning. Mana storage lasts a week. Very nice.”
“I know it’s good. That’s why I bought it, and that’s why I hired you to come fix it. Make it right, before all the woodland creatures think I’ll turn them all into living neon glowsticks.”
Able took out a magnifying glass and peered at the book. “When did it start going funky?”
“When I tried to bestow the now-paranoid deer with the blessings of the Grovemother. Should have been a run-of-the-mill spell, but the pages began to boil like it was water and created a nasty screeching sound during casting. Now I’ll be lucky if anyone lets me say ‘bless you’ after they sneeze.”
“After that happened, did you try closing your book and opening it again?”
“Have you tried linking the book to the publisher via mana-link and implementing the latest updates?”
“Did you check the spine for any cracks, breaks, or anything else that would cause mana to leak?”
“Yes. I did all of those things. I’m not stupid, you know. I know that this stupid thing is broken, and I want you to fix it right now.”
Able found it tricky to diagnose a book that was the size of a coin. Taking out a pair of tweezers, he flipped the pages, inspecting each one with his magnifying glass. All the spells were in their proper orders. The ink hadn’t faded. None of the pages were torn, or even dog-eared (a common user error for novice spellbook users). As far as maintenance went, Aerya had taken very good care.
“So?” Aerya spat. “Have you found whatever nefarious component the companies put in these things that make them self-destruct when the warranty is over?”
“Not yet,” Able said. “Looks like you’ve kept this one well.”
“Of course I have. Do you know why? Because I know the value of a good spellbook when I see one. I’m not going to mess around with them like my friends do. One of them installed a modification on hers that made it glow rainbow colours. It totally eats up the mana reserves meant for spells, but does she listen? Of course not. I wouldn’t do something so horrendously stupid with my book.”
“Some of the more trickier clients I’ve had were because someone’s installed an innocent-looking modification without checking what it does. Lots of nasty things–wait.”
While he was listening and talking, Able had been flicking through some of the spare blank pages at the back of the book, designed to incorporate any spells the user might want to add. On the first blank page, written in a pretty cursive font, was a step-by-step ingredient on how to create glow-in-the-dark face paint for children.
“What’s this?” Able said, pointing at it.
“None of your business, that’s what. Just found a nice recipe and decided to use the spare page to write it down. So what? Doesn’t affect anything.”
“It affects a lot, actually.”
“Given it’s a recipe, you didn’t properly declare it as a spell, but the book treats it as one. When a spell from the book is cast, the undeclared recipe causes a list overflow, dumping the recipe into the spell stack and corrupting it. Therefore, variables of the recipe end up leaking into the spell you’re trying to cast.”
Aerya blinked. “I have no idea what you just said.”
Able shrugged, tore out the recipe, and handed the book back. “Try it now.”
Skeptical, Aerya picked up the book. She waved a finger in the air and pointed it at the ground. A mushroom sprouted from the earth, looking healthy and not at all neon.
“Oh,” Aerya said. “So…it was my mistake all along.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Able said, with the smile. “But it’s all good now.”
“Yes. Quite.” Aerya clapped the book shut, with the same fire and vigour as a deflated balloon. “Well, then. Uh. Thanks. I’ll get your payment right away.”
Able nodded to himself as Aerya entered her home once again. No smile this time, but regardless; a good day’s work.