Sorcery and Stardust, writing

Caelum’s Bookshelf

This little snippet is set about fifty years before Sorcery and Stardust. Enjoy!

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“There. Autopilot set; we should arrive in the next five hours or so.” Arcana leant back in her chair and stretched until her shoulders popped. “Once this job is done, we’ll have enough cash to convert the ship so you can fly it instead.”

When there was no answer, she turned to see Caelum curled up on his cushion at the back of the bridge, eyes shut and chin resting on his hooves. At first glance he appeared asleep but when Arcana looked closer, she could see his eyes moving behind the closed lids. Rolling out of her chair, she clomped over to his side and poked one shoulder with the toe of her black combat boots.

“What?” The peevish tone was currently Caelum’s standard form of address, his legs and body more out of proportion than normal as he transformed from sweet fawn to waspish young adult. “I’m busy.”

“Doing what?”

“Reading.”

Arcana clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth. “The back of your eyelids?”

Again, no answer. Grinding her teeth, she grabbed her now cold cup of tea and tipped it down the length of his spine. Caelum’s head shot up, followed quickly by the rest of him, hackles raised and eyes indignantly wide. “Hey!”

“Don’t ignore me when I’m talking to you,” Arcana snapped. “It’s rude.”

Caelum loomed over her, taking full advantage of his sudden and ridiculous height. “Throwing tea on someone is rude.”

“Pay. Attention.” She poked him in the chest with each word. “I. Am. Not. Your. Enemy.”

Galaxy eyes narrowed, then all the tension left him with a sigh and the deerken lowered his head to snuff at her cheek. “Sorry.”

“It’s fine.” Grabbing a clean rag from the back of the empty co-pilot’s chair – the one that, if all went well, would soon be a custom built couch for Caelum – Arcana dried the tea from his fur. “What were you doing?”

“I really was reading.” Contrition in his enormous eyes, another nose rub. “I discovered that there’s a place… a space inside me, where I can go. Like another room, in my dreams, only I’m awake.”

“A dream den?”

“Maybe.” His ears flickered and Arcana waited while he puzzled it out. “More like a bank, where I can leave thoughts and impressions for safekeeping, then visit and recall later.”

Setting the towel aside, Arcana crossed her arms over her black leather corset and considered some more. “So this dream bank isn’t just an extension of your eidetic memory?”

“It doesn’t feel like it. Memories are exactly that; thoughts, images, impressions. This is a place. I can make it look like a room, with a fireplace and a rug and a bookshelf.” The enthusiasm in his voice was so infectious that Arcana smiled. “When I read a book in the real world, it makes a mental copy on my bookshelf that I can take down and re-read at will, when my eyes are shut.”

So much they didn’t know, so many facets of Caelum they were feeling out day by day, year by year. Rather than let him see her guilt, Arcana forced her smile as wide as she was able. “That sounds lovely. So, what were you reading?”

Another ear flicker, his tone determinedly teenagerish. “Stuff.”

“Stuff, huh?” Tickling his chin, Arcana lowered her voice to a conspirational whisper. “Dear diary; today I discovered that one of my antlers is bigger than the other. Do you think, if I get creative with a tub of plascrete putty, that I can fix it so nobody would notice?”

“You are so lame, you know that?” Caelum’s eyes rolled dramatically. “I don’t have hands – I can’t write in a diary.”

Arcana raised an eyebrow. “If you can operate the ship’s controls with your tongue, you can hold a pen.”

“Maybe.” A noncommittal grunt. “I’m still not telling. Sometimes I need my privacy, you know.”

“All right, all right.” Arcana chuckled, pressed a kiss to his nose and headed for the door. “I’m going to bake cookies and review the mission notes. You want in, or are you going to indulge in some more privacy?”

He trotted after her, ears pricked. “Cookies?”

“Extras for the deerken who tells me his secrets.”

“Not happening,” Caelum sang, teenage recalcitrance trumped by the lure of baked treats.

Arcana paused at the door to the kitchen and glanced over her shoulder. “All right, what if you promise to explain it to me one day? When you’re ready.”

“And I can still have extra cookies?”

“Sure.” She smiled. “I trust you.”

His chest puffed out, broader than it had been yesterday, with the promise of even more muscle to come. “Deal.”

“Excellent.” Arcana sashayed to the cupboard and began to hunt through it. “Peanut butter choc chip?”

There was a thump behind her as Caelum swooned against the kitchen counter. “Yesssssssss.”

“Done.” She set the ingredients on the counter, looked him up and down, went back for more. “I think, with the rate you’re growing, we’re going to need a double batch.”

Caelum was silent and when Arcana returned from her second foray into the cupboard, she found him watching her through eyes suddenly older than their years. “I’m sorry.”

“We’ve been through this.” Rounding the bench, she took his beloved face in her hands and kissed the velvet fur of his nose. “Hormones are normal. Now, get out of the way so I can bake, or we’ll run out of time to review the mission file.”

“All right.” Retreating to yet another large cushion, this one significantly more well loved than the one on the bridge, Caelum gathered his legs beneath him and closed his eyes. “I guess I’ll read while I’m waiting.”

Arcana’s lips twitched. “Rogue.”

He grinned but remained silent, and a moment later his eyes started moving back and forth behind their lids again. Shaking her head at the moodiness of adolescents everywhere, Arcana turned back to the bench and began to bake.

***************

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