Arvid did not take the first bus home after school on Monday. Instead, he went to the town library. With him, in his bag, he had the book. "Vileness". This time he was going to find out for sure. The book had several names, places, dates of witches that were found guilty after a fair trial. He was going to check this out.
The library was a quiet place. Arvid had rarely ever been here before, since that's not the way they used to do it in his family. They didn't go and borrow worldly books. And Arvid had found what he needed at school, before. But this time he didn't. And he knew from the start that the library was the place to go. Cautiously he approached a counter. A woman sat behind it. And what a woman!
Arvid just stared. Her long black hair shone like the wings of a raven, as it draped itself around her perfectly symmetrical face like a frame around a work of art. Her full red lips seemed to have some meaning even before they were parted. And the contours under her blouse ... he coldn't remember having seen the like. If this was how the succubi of old looked like, his respect for the saints was suddenly doubled. He briefly wondered if the rest of her was equally perfect. Then suddenly he noticed her looking at him. His face flushed hot from one heartbeat to the next, and whatever he had planned to say was just gone. He opened his mouth, closed it again, and hastened away among shelves of old books. Great performance, Arvid! He almost expected to hear a mocking laughter following him, but luckily that did not happen.
Stupid, stupid! Arvid felt like beating his head against the wall. He was pretty shy around women, at least pretty women. And they don't come prettier than this. But a humiliating retreat like this was over the top, even for him. His face was only slowly getting back its natural temperature, and he dared look around. He looked at a book, and it said "Language and identity". Probably interesting enough, but really not helping him with the witches. Moving on to another shelf, he found "Olsen, O: Poems." Not exactly an improvement. But then, further ahead, he saw the most encouraging sight: A young man was putting books from a cart into the shelves. At least this was not a succubus. He smiled to himself and approached. "Excuse me..." The guy turned around, and was a girl.
The misunderstanding was quite reasonable. The girl, seemingly in her early twenties, was very slender, with hardly any hips to speak of. He could make out a hint of breasts under the cardigan, but only because he knew it. She had a girl's face, barely, under the mop of short sand-colored hair, a hair that seemed to be at war with itself. Blue-gray eyes glittered at him, and somehow it was those who convinced him that she was indeed female, though she looked like she had waited till the last minute with deciding what gender she should be born.
"Yes?" Her voice was at least clearly female. "Uhm, you work here?" "That's for sure. Sometimes it looks like I'm the only one who does." He blinked at that unexpected statement, but decided to get down to business. "I wondered if you could help me find out something about witches." She stared at him, then laughed, a silvery peal of laughter. There was no real mockery in it, though, just too much good humor to contain. "You come to me to find out about witches?" "Well, actually I came to the library" he replied, slightly miffed. "You don't know me, do you?" "Not at all. I just assumed you worked here, since you were putting books in the shelves instead of taking them out." "An astute observation. OK, what do you want to know?"
Arvid pulled out the book. "This book, I got it from a ... relative. It describes some cases where witches were found guilty of sorcery. I want to find out how solid these cases where. Whether independent witnesses were used, material proofs, torture. Whatever. I want to find out how much I can trust this book." "May I see it?" "Sure thing, as long as I get it back." "Oh, you will" she grinned, and set off for a computer in one corner of the library.
When Arvid arrived, she was already seated. She certainly moved quickly. Her fingers danced on the keyboard. She muttered to herself, but he couldn't hear what. She typed again. Then shook her head. "Funny. This book is not registered, nor the author. Let me do an Internet search." She typed again. And again. "Nope. It's like this book didn't exist until just now. Strange thing!" "You have no idea how strange" Arvid muttered.
"OK. You wanted to know about witch processes. We have only a couple of books here. Come with me." She led him to a shelf and pulled out two books. "These are generally about witch processes, but I don't know if they have the details you need. How detailed is it exactly?" Arvid opened Vileness and found the pages. "This." She read a little. "Hey, pretty detailed. You know what ... can you be back another day?" "I guess so." "I'll ask on the forum if anyone has these details." "Forum?" "Oh, I forgot." She grabbed a thin silvery chain hanging around her her neck, and pulled up some kind of silver star hanging from it. "This tell you something?"
It did indeed look vaguely familiar, but he couldn't place it. "Sorry. Not sure where I have seen it before." "OK. Please don't freak out now. I'm a witch." "A witch? You? I mean, you said you worked here?" She chuckled. "We don't dance naked in the woods all the time, you know." He felt a mild blush. "I didn't mean that. Oh my ..." He stared at her. "I know where I've seen that star! The circle of stones!" "Yes!" She grinned. "You are on to something there!" "But then ... you are from Gwalawala? But you don't look like them!"
This time it was the girl's time to stare dumbly at him. "Walla Walla?" "Gwalawala! No, you don't have the hair." "I do have hair, both here and there, but I have no idea what kind of hair they have in Walla Walla." "And anyway" he added tamely, "it's just a dream." "This symbol is called a pentacle or a pentagram, somewhat depending on who you ask. It's not a symbol of the devil, though some Satanists turn it upside down to symbolize evil, just as they do with the christian cross." "Oh, I didn't mean to say it was evil. It was in the center of the circle where the sorceress summoned me. In a dream", he added hastily.
"It's a kind of universal symbol" the girl explained. "You're likely to find it wherever there are witches afoot. You've probably seen it in a book or a magazine or a computer game." "I don't play computer games. The only place I have seen this was in a dream ... well, actually several dreams ... where I was summoned to another world." "You seem to have some rather witch-like dreams for someone who've never seen a pentacle before!" "Well, you see, it started one day when I was out walking ..."
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