As I said last Sunday, I promised the real Holly Jahangiri she could be in at least one story this month. She was in last Sunday’s, and she’s in today’s. Another pattern? Time alone will tell.
by Marian Allen
Assistant Librarian Holly Jahangiri of the planet Llannonn was glad to relax and enjoy the scenery – as far that was possible from the back of a moving pratty – and let the guide lead the way.
The seven women riding between Holly and the guide were, like Holly, experienced prattywomen. It was a desire to return to their roots that had inspired these seven Living Books to volunteer for a transfer to this back-country branch. The same desire had motivated Holly to accompany them and see them safely and appropriately settled. She loved getting back to the country, where she could wear a rustic tunic instead of city clothes, and her purple feather boa wasn’t a personal hallmark, but was just something people wore.
When they reached the town, with its traditional one-and-two-floor mudbrick buildings carefully contoured to leave no edge or corner, the townsfolk greeted them with pulled forelocks and happy smiles.
Holly saw a man who could only be Branch Librarian and Living Book Shane standing in front of a long, two-floor building. He was dressed appropriately for his Terran text, in what people from Earth called shirt-and-trousers. When she had dismounted and got close enough to greet him, she could see the material was of Llannonninn make, carefully detailed to resemble Terran denim and flannel.
Another man stood next to him, a dart gun strapped to his side. The darts were undoubtedly loaded with a subcutaneous placator, a sad necessity in these somewhat lawless regions.
Shane introduced the man as Sheriff L. T. Tehxxann.
The guide unloaded the pack pratties and gathered all the beasts’ reins. “I’ll take these to corral,” he said to Holly, pulling his forelock in respect.
“Okay. Then come join us.”
The Dahzh City Living Library was only a set of rooms set aside for that purpose by the town’s largest hotel. Branch Librarian and Living Book Shane led Holly and her group into the hotel bar, where they could sit on something that didn’t move.
“I was getting worried,” he said. “We’ve had some trouble with pratty rustlers the past couple of days. Not likely they’d have the guts to tangle with a librarian, but you never know with fellers like that.”
Holly and the new books met the settled volumes and moved their luggage into their chosen rooms on the upper floor. She was relieved to find the facilities were clean, airy, and well-appointed. She would never have left Living Books in a library that fell short of the high standards Head Librarian Devra Langsam of Council City had taught her.
The squeal and blatt of an enraged pratty rent the air.
Branch Librarian and Living Book Shane bolted across the hall and down the stairs, Assistant Librarian Holly Jahangiri at his heels.
By the time they reached the corral, it was nearly empty. Only Holly’s and Shane’s pratties were left, the lingering redness in their pupils and the scraps of cloth between their teeth testifying to the refusal of librarians’ things to be stolen. The “guide” was nowhere to be found, but the cloth in the pratties’ mouths were identifiably from his tunic.
Sheriff L. T. Tehxxann lay on the ground, shot with his own subcutaneous placator, snoring gently.
“Take care of him,” the branch librarian said, swinging onto his mount. “I’m going after that thieving varmint. We know who he is, now, and he knows it. By the time I catch up to him, he’ll be so worried he’ll probably be on his way back to confess.”
Several of the Books lifted the sheriff and carried him into the hotel. Holly calmed her pratty and watched the branch librarian ride off into the sunset.
“Don’t worry,” she told her pratty, who didn’t actually seem all that worried. “He’ll be back.”
~ * ~
MY PROMPT TODAY: rough country