|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
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,
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
Conan managed a tight smile. "I'm afraid I've developed an allergy to
cats," he said.
© 1995, by Hadley V. Baxendale