Twelve Tales of Christmas, by Jane Jago. Out today!
From ‘The Night Library at Christmas’
It was Christmas Eve and the darkness of the library was alive with twinkling lights as children, and small creatures carrying glow worm lanterns, climbed the stacks to the floor and joined an ever-growing procession to where a noble Norway Spruce speared the darkness with its scented branches. As the crowd around its feet grew thicker, the Christmas tree seemed to grow ever taller and more majestic, then, one by one, the candles on its branches took light.
A dumpy little human female stepped into the light and immediately a clamour went up around her.
“Miss. Miss. Read us the story. Read us about the baby in the stable. Please miss.”
The librarian smiled and went to the place where Holy Books of many callings were shelved. A heavy, hand tooled volume leapt into her arms and for a second she staggered under its weight. She smoothed its tooled leather, reflecting on how the stories within its covers had conquered the world with more effectiveness than all the guns, and all the bombs, and all the wars.
Back beneath the tree, an overstuffed armchair had materialised. It smiled and beckoned her into its wide lap. As she sat and opened the huge Book, there came a loud bang and a furious face appeared.
“No,” the creature cried in a voice like thunder. “No. You shall not read this lie.”
“And is it any more of a lie than that which your children purvey on Walpurgisnacht? Or at any sabbat in any sacred grove?”
It lifted its insubstantial muzzle and howled defiance and misery. “I will drag that book from your hands and rend it to pieces with my bare claws. I will make it burn as it sits on your frail human legs. I will…”
The creatures around the Christmas tree began to be afraid and the librarian held up a hand to stop the enraged grumbling of the shadow demon.
“You will,” she said firmly, “do nothing. You can do nothing. You are a creature of smoke and mirrors not even as substantial as the book children gathered at my knee. Now begone with you before you make me angry.”
The demon attempted a sneer, but it was of very little consequence when faced with the strong will and common sense that defined the straight backed little human who faced him without a shred of fear. Even as he made an effort to draw in his will she pointed a finger.
“Did I not just tell you to go away?”
It seemed as if the sending would defy her and she frowned, muttering a brief incantation under her breath. There was a strong smell of sulphur then the face collapsed into itself leaving only a momentary pool of blackness before even that disappeared.
The Night Librarian stood up. She put the Book on the soft chair and smiled at the little ones.
“I just need to make sure there are no interruptions to your story. I shall not be a moment. You all can sing the candle song while you wait.”
A chorus of small, and it has to be said mostly tuneless, voices followed her as she crossed the shadowed stacks…