Conan the Librarian on the Information Highway
Chapter 1
It was in the Spring of the first year of the of the tenure of the High Priest of the OCLC, Colin the Codemeister--after the destruction of the sorceress Meta--that Conan the Librarian began the journey that would take him to the capitals of the three kingdoms and along the highways, charted and not, between them. 

He had spent the long Winter helping restore the OCLC to its proper functioning and, more importantly, returning the stolen copies of the AACR2--the prime formulary of cataloging spells--to their proper temples. After months of tunnel repair to the main server, most of these were returned by the industrious golden rodents who served the OCLC. But for reasons of politics, it was decided that the copies belonging to the main temples should be delivered personally by the librarian/hero who had discovered and thwarted the plot to subvert the OCLC. And so it was that Conan set off along the perilous information highway. 

It was a long ride even to the capital of the First Kingdom, but Colin had given him the best horse in the stable--the white stallion FirstSearch, son of Epic, out of Marketing--and his smooth canter made the miles flow by. After the long winter in the caves, Conan savored the warm sun, the cool Spring breeze, and the smells of flowering fruit trees and fresh turned earth. 

Finally, cresting the last hill, he saw it. He had been there last as a boy with his tutor. Now the afternoon sun made the white marble buildings shine. Conan let FirstSearch crop grass as he took in the view. He could see the whole city, the great road encircling it like a belt, the river cutting through it, the monuments to long dead kings. In the center was the expanse of green lawn separating the King's residence, known as the White Castle, from the Assembly of Lords, nearby to which was the Temple. Conan's appointment was at the castle. 

It was by far the grandest residence in the city and looked more like a manor house than a true castle. It had no moat for the encircling road formed the defensive perimeter for the entire capital, but it was protected by an iron fence--defense against both black magic and eager tourists, Conan thought. 

He rode straight to the main gate and presented his letters of introduction to the sentry, who studied them. "Are you staying for the Royal Conference on Valuable Information then, Sir?" 

To Conan's puzzled look he said, "It was moved here from the Borough of Pitts when it received the royal charter." 

Before Conan could answer, a feline movement from behind the guardhouse made him tighten his hand on the reins while the other twitched toward his sword. FirstSearch snorted and stepped back. The sentry glanced up at Conan and then quickly to his right where a cat the size of a panther, black with white feet, white bib and a black bow tie had come to sit beside him. The guard grinned, "Don't mind Bootsie, Sir. He's no hyper-cat to be sure. Never even chases mice. No sir, this pampered puss is the companion and confidant of the Princess. Has the run of the place. Don't never bother no one." 

Conan managed a tight smile. "I'm afraid I've developed an allergy to cats," he said. 

© 1995, by Hadley V. Baxendale 

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