The City of Screaming Books

Rosa was doing well in life. Older, slightly wiser, and not very much quieter, she had faced a remarkable lack of supervillain activity in the past years. At least the activity that blew threw the shop. The shop had been very peaceful, in fact, and it was a pleasant luxury to a St. Canardian.

Humming happily to herself as Lilly put in an afternoon of cataloging, she looked for the corner bits to her puzzle as Toni sprawled on a cushion, reading quietly.

    • Negaduck
      Negaduck

      [[Occurs slightly prior to Negaduck's return. A prequill, if you will.]]

      Such peace. Such.. such.. lack of strangeness.

      It came all of a sudden, then, that as Toni flipped to the next page, one of the illustrations moved.

      A small girl, no more than six, was there sitting on an oversized mushroom, reading to herself just like him. In a smart ebony dress that matched her long plaited hair, she looked up from her book as if she was surprised to see him... and waved.

      Nervously, because Toni was far, far bigger than her. It was only fair.

      • Lilly Teal
        Lilly Teal

        Toni blinked, too confused to be scared.

        "Rosa?"

        "Hm?"

        "The picture's moving."

        "What?"

        He waved back, still looking quizically at the page as he answered again. "The picture waved at me."

        "You've just been reading too much. Your eyes are going bad."

        "They're NOT."

        • Negaduck
          Negaduck

          "Ssshhh." A tiny voice said. The girl was smiling though, finger to her small bill.

          "They can't see us." Friendly tilt of the head. "What's your name?"

          So glad to have met you, fellow book person! I could use a friend...

          • Lilly Teal
            Lilly Teal

            He paused. Should I answer back? What's the harm?

            "Uh... Antonio." he whispered back. "You can call me Toni though. What about you?"

            With the conversation being conducted at a whisper, Rosa concluded that Toni was just reading the text out to himself. Weird, because he was always a very quiet reader, but sure, whatever he liked to do.

            Just let me do my puzzle thank you very much.

            • Negaduck
              Negaduck

              "Ana." She beamed back pure delight. "Do you like books?"

              It seemed polite to ask. And Ana was, clearly, a very polite little thing.

              • Lilly Teal
                Lilly Teal

                "I love them. Mum loves them too," he confirmed, smiling slightly. He didn't inherit his mother's wide beams, those went to Rosa. Instead he got her warm, quiet smiles. "I guess you like them too?"

                You are reading, after all.

                • Negaduck
                  Negaduck

                  "Oh yes! Especially ones with all the pictures!" Obviously.

                  "I like them almost as much as Hopsy. He's my pet!" Obligingly a tiny black and white bunny appeared, almost hesitantly, around the base of the mushroom. Maybe he was shy, like her?

                  Ana scooped him onto her lap and shoved, with what could only be childish enthusiasm, a big wad of lettuce into his mouth. "He likes books too. But only to nibble!"

                  Oh Hopsy. You scamp.

                  • Lilly Teal
                    Lilly Teal

                    "Oh... he's cute..."

                    "Do you want some cocoa, darlings? It's getting chillier this evening."

                    "No thanks!"

                    "We're okay!" Toni called back, before looking down at the page again. "That's my mum."

                    • Negaduck
                      Negaduck

                      Hopsy chewed rather hard on his nibbles.

                      "Ah," said Ana. "She sounds lovely. We have to be careful though. Grown-ups can't see into this world, or the magic stops!"

                      Soft, sad strokes of the bunny. "I don't want it to stop. You seem really friendly!"

                      And I could so use a friend...

                      • Lilly Teal
                        Lilly Teal

                        "Oh... thanks. I try to be. Um, do you talk to people a lot?"

                        I mean you seem pretty nice too, honestly!

                        • Negaduck
                          Negaduck

                          "Sure, I can see into lots of worlds! Every story where there is a world, actually. We call it StoryLand. There are knights and dragons and flying puppies and castles in the sky! And everyone is super nice!"

                          Somewhat downcast, she added, "People from your world don't tend to see into StoryLand." Big, round eyes. "You must be very special!"

                          Lucky too.

                          • Lilly Teal
                            Lilly Teal

                            "That's interesting. Not everyone in stories is nice."

                            I DO read a lot, you see.

                            "You must be in a... different place. Cool. Don't you have friends where you are?"

                            • Negaduck
                              Negaduck

                              She shrugged. "Yes, but not many of them are.. kids, you know? It would be nice to have someone to play with."

                              An idea lit up across her face. "Do you want to come visit? I can show you all the stories! You can even pat Hopsy!"

                              Hopsy squirmed. In pure excitement, clearly.

                              • Lilly Teal
                                Lilly Teal

                                "... can I do that?"

                                He was much more cautious than his sister, but the idea pulled him out of that little bubble into a spurt of impulsiveness.

                                "I'd like to. Can.. can my sister come? She likes stories. Just not to read much. We'd have so much to tell mum..."

                                • Negaduck
                                  Negaduck

                                  How perfect! More than he knew...

                                  "Of course! Just hold your sister's hand, then touch mine..."

                                  Holding Hopsy, Ana reached up her palm, ready whenever Toni was.

                                  "And the magic will bring you both here!"

                                  What could be more amazing than that.

                                  • Lilly Teal
                                    Lilly Teal

                                    "Uh..."

                                    This was getting too real. Maybe it would be better to back out.

                                    "Uh... uh... Rosa!"

                                    "Whaaaat."

                                    "Come here. Come HERE this is really important."

                                    Quick, before I second guess myself.

                                    "Fiiiine. What is it?"

                                    Taking her hand quickly, he reached for Ana's tiny palm.

                                    • Negaduck
                                      Negaduck

                                      The instant they touched, the children - and Hopsy - were consumed by a blaze of black light.

                                      SWWWWSSSHHHH!

                                      One group faded out as the other appeared.

                                      Ana straightened her little dress and placed her pet pal on the shop floor.

                                      A pal who continued an apparent line of complaint in a disconcertingly deep voice.

                                      "-a RABBIT of all things. You KNOW how much I HATE-"

                                      They had started forward, and with every step, their shapes changed and grew.

                                      Ana replied in a smooth, womanly tone, "Without my spell book, my abilities are limited."

                                      Hopsy's tiny limbs were SPRONGING at different times and different rates into a pair of webbed feet and yellow jacketed, surly arms. He also clearly wasn't paying attention to any of it. "-And of all the rotten, cutesy places to come back to! Couldn't we have opened some devastatingly destructive wormhole?"

                                      Ana had enlongated into her true form: eerily tall and slender, with long flowing jet back hair. A sweep of her hand and the Storyland book levitated over to them. "If it wasn't for those children, we wouldn't be here at all."

                                      Hopsy's adorable red button nose had sucked into his face before bouncing back as a scowling beak. The black patches morphed into a mask. A red hat and cape swished into life.

                                      Negaduck reached for the door. "Yeah. A real tragedy."

                                      It would be.

                                      • Lilly Teal
                                        Lilly Teal

                                        What was really important?

                                        Before she could curiously check out her kids' antics, she heard unfamiliar voices.

                                        ... well, more like unwelcome voices.

                                        "Darlings?" Peeking her head in, she went white.

                                        "What the hell are you doing here?"

                                        • Negaduck
                                          Negaduck

                                          ~~POOF!~~ The moment Lilly's head appeared, the vision of the ghostly witch disappeared. It was like she had faded into his cape.

                                          Perhaps Lilly was seeing things now too.

                                          "Leaving," Negaduck replied gruffly, not sparing her a moment's glance.

                                          What? It was the truth. And good news at that! What did she have to complain about?

                                          • Lilly Teal
                                            Lilly Teal

                                            "... where are the children? Negaduck where are my children?! "

                                            Dashing forward, she wasn't sure what she could do. Stop him until her answered at least.

                                            • Negaduck
                                              Negaduck

                                              Good luck with that. Even distraught Lilly would find it hard to slow him down. He had plans. He didn't have time to stick around to torment her, no matter how deliciously fun that was.

                                              "What do I look like, the babysitter?!" he snapped back, never stopping, no matter how forceful he had to be.

                                              Because he so hated to use force...

                                              • Lilly Teal
                                                Lilly Teal

                                                He didn't, but she had got hold of her bat and he looked like a baseball.

                                                CRACK.

                                                "Where. Are. They?!"

                                                • Negaduck
                                                  Negaduck

                                                  Flinch. Negaduck had one hard head, but he still did not appreciate being bonked without his permission.

                                                  Turning, on the spot, he would rip that stupid bat out of her very hands and fling it over a rainbow if it dare came near him again.

                                                  "I DON'T know," roared in frustration. "YOU'RE the parent; YOU'RE supposed to keep tabs on them!"

                                                  That cleared up, he turned to walk again. Geez, some women.

                                                  • Lilly Teal
                                                    Lilly Teal

                                                    "You DO know! Don't give me that! How else do you explain you being here and them being gone! Stop MOVING!"

                                                    Another swing, this time cracking between him and the door.

                                                    You are NOT leaving.

                                                    • Negaduck
                                                      Negaduck

                                                      The near blow clipped the book out of his hands. No biggie, he hadn't been planning on keeping it. Would probably get PTSD from just looking at that wretchedly adorable cover anyway.

                                                      He paused just long enough to cross his arms to glower.

                                                      "Maybe I don't know."

                                                      As promised, Go-Go Gadget Negs grabbed for the bat so he could finally clear his path. Even if it meant clearing her out of there.

                                                      "Or maybe I don't CARE."

                                                      Going now whether it's through you or over you, so move it!