I ran across him in a corridor I’d never explored before — the Library was on one end, but I’d never been down it and had no idea what was on the other. I’d seen him around, usually outside, occasionally in the Pub, a tall, broad-shouldered man with a great fall of fox-red hair barely contained by a silver ring, his movements oddly quick and fluid. He had with him a little wisp of a boy who seemed in constant motion, slipping in and out of sight. He looked at me out of long golden eyes, the kind of eyes that don’t tell much, but his smile was friendly enough.
‘Well, hello there. I see you’ve discovered the hallway to the Wood — what is it, Pix?’
‘Might I go hear a story?’ The boy was definitely there, quite solid now that I’d drawn close. Huge blue eyes in a thin face were almost pleading.
‘Hmm — very well, I suppose so, but do be careful — no wandering around. There, there’s your favorite story room just over there. Do you have your yarn? Here, tie one end to my wrist and be sure to hold on tightly now. Robin would never forgive me if I misplaced you. There — all set.’
‘Thank you. I promise, I’ll sit quietly and listen to the stories.’ The beginnings of a pout. ‘I wish I got to pick the story, though.’
‘Well, maybe we’ll figure out a way to do that. Now, run along, and don’t get lost — and stay out of the computer! Tch. I don’t know how he does that, but he does, and it sends Robin into a tizzy trying to get him downloaded again — he’s truly fond of the little imp — and Robin in a tizzy is — well, the man has a temper, though he’s gentle as can be if you treat him right.
‘Now, where was I — oh, right, this hallway. Be very careful if you’re inclined to explore at all — you might want to get your own ball of yarn. It tends to go places you might not expect, particularly near the Border. I’m not sure they’re all real to begin with, and it would be the Devil’s own job to get you back from some of them. And be especially careful of the Minotaur — he’s more irritable than usual this time of year.
‘Hmm? Oh, yes — it ends at the First Tree, in the center of the Wood. Robin says this is actually a root that became the Library. I don’t know where he learns these things, and that’s the truth. Iain — you’ve met Iain, haven’t you? our Librarian? — Iain says that’s outrageous, but Robin’s usually right about such as that — he’s very clever, my Robin. He thinks the House just grew here, but that’s a bit much even for me to swallow, and he can usually talk me into anything. Although now I think on it, the House does tend to add parts without warning, so maybe. . . . Well.
‘Here, look down here a ways and you can see. . . . Ah! Let me go get Pix to give me some slack so I can move around a bit. I’ll be right back. . . .’