Oh, whoops! A thick, leatherbound book fell from Thea’s hefty stack that she carried in her arms. She shifted the stack’s weight to her left arm just in time to grab the falling book and return it to its place on top.
“Phew! That was close!” Thea chuckled to herself, quite proud that she had yet to drop a book in years, though hanging onto them was still a bit tricky. She did tend to carry too many at once, but there was often no one around to admonish her for it. See! Who needs a unique skill? I have all the skill I need already.
She climbed the ironwork, spiral staircase that led up to the second floor of the library. There, she had organized and stored the lesser-used books. Three of the books she carried belonged to this section, including the one that almost fell. But as she completed her task, she could only smile at the train of her thoughts.
Of course it would be nice if she had a unique skill, but over the last ten years, since unique skills first began manifesting in the citizens of the Elourian Empire, nothing had manifested for her personally. It was all quite wondrous, and as a child–though the adults had been panicking around her at the time–she had dreamed of having a unique skill that would take her on adventures and to places that the daughter of a baronette could never dream of.
That was all in the past though. Nearly ninety-five percent of the population had a unique skill now, and she had resigned herself to the fact that she was part of that five percent that didn’t. Unique skills had become commonplace and were no longer the subject of panicked debates. It helped that most unique skills were things people could use everyday in small ways, little conveniences really but without the use of magic tools. It would have been quite handy to have a skill that helped her take care of the library a little easier, such as the ability to know and remember where each book was kept–though she nearly had that one down pat now that she’d worked at this particular library for five years.
However, some debates still centered around a small percentage of people who had gained truly versatile skills, ones that led to them being scouted by the government or some powerful company or group. They were scooped up just as fast as mages in most cases. Those were the ones that the newspapers still featured quite often. One column in particular was a favorite read of Thea’s. She loved to follow the exploits of Investigator Cyris Hollendale, a rising star in the Civil Justice Department. His unique skill was a bit of a mystery and kept under close wraps, but whatever it was, it allowed him to solve some of the toughest cases.
Ah! Her distracted thoughts caused her to almost lose her grip on the books in her arms. I really must keep my mind on the task at hand! She scolded herself. But it was hard to keep her mind on one thing when the library was so quiet.
Ha! She laughed at herself again. Well, of course, the library was always quiet, but at that moment it was even more so. The lights flickered to life, casting a soft yellow glow all around her as the last light of sunset faded from the windows. The weather had been quite lovely that day, but due to that perhaps, few visitors came to the library even though it was the only commoner-accessible, public library in the capital’s east district.
Thea hummed to herself as she replaced the books that had homes on the second floor and skipped down the spiral stairs to finally put up the last of her stack. She brushed her hands against each other. There, that should do it!
She pursed her lips and tilted her head. “Hmm…should I head home already?” There was only one bell until she closed up anyways. And she normally disliked closing early. “Ah, where did I put that cookbook?” She remembered that she had grabbed a cookbook that caught her eye this morning, intent on choosing a recipe in it to try out for supper that night. She was struggling to learn how to cook for herself. It wasn’t that she didn’t have the patience or the practice–what she made was often edible–but it hardly looked, let alone tasted, like what was made in restaurants or what was described in the recipe.
She found the cookbook behind the circulation desk weighing down a stack of library card applications. She had just sat down behind the desk with it and opened the cover when a light tapping sound came from the area of the front door.
Closing the book and resting it back on the stack of applications, she walked towards the front door without a second thought. It was odd that someone was perhaps knocking lightly, but it wouldn’t be the first time that someone was reluctant to enter due to thinking they were closing soon. The open hours were posted on the door, but that didn’t mean everyone read them. Funny how that works and them coming to a library….
Thea made sure to smile welcomingly before opening the door.
Oh! A child, probably no more than ten years old stood in front of the door, dressed in a flowy black robe that reached just past their knees and a pair of thin, black slippers. It was hard to say if the child was a boy or a girl. Their face was cute, with wide eyes the color of a dark blue night sky rimmed with long lashes, along with rosy cheeks and lips. Their long hair was the same blue-black as their eyes and flowed down to their knees.
“Hello,” Thea said, her smile returning in full. She always liked kids, but given her profession and her desire to work rather than tend house, she knew her only chance to be around them was when children visited the library. “Did you want to come in and read?”
She glanced around, but the street was mostly empty and neither of the two people she saw looked to be this kid’s parents. Perhaps they are an orphan? It wouldn’t be the first time she’d welcomed a homeless kid into the library so they could rest. She even had a few snacks that she could spare if the kid was hungry.
The child opened their mouth then closed it, clearing their throat. “Yes, I would like to find some information on this place.” Their voice was wispy as if it wasn’t used much.
Thea stepped to the side. “Come on in then. We still have two bells before closing time. I can help find some books on what you need.” When the child hesitated, she extended her hand. “Here, would you like to hold my hand? I’ll lead you to a comfy chair where you can sit down.”
The child’s eyes widened for a moment as they stared at her offered hand, and then, gingerly, they placed their small hand in hers and nodded.
Thea gently closed her fingers around the child’s hand and led them forward into the library. There were low, comfy armchairs in the area near the children’s books, so she took the child there. She looked from the child to the chair and back again, unsure if they would be able to climb up themselves.
Thea knelt down next to the child so she was eye to eye with them. “Would you allow me to lift you up to sit you in the chair?” This time, the child only paused a moment before nodding. She picked the child up, surprised and a little alarmed at how light they were, and sat them in the armchair. “Now, you said you wanted to read about this place. Did you mean the library, the capital, or perhaps the empire?” Her mind was already going through the list of geography and history books that she knew of.
“All of it,” the child replied.