Last time, Grog and Naomi the children's librarian had a little problem with a patron. Now Grog is with his old friend Lecher, somehow aged into the elderly Old Ben.
Grog felt confused by the situation. Confusion often spawned the need for drink and food or a good fight to wash away the unease. Grog looked at his old friend who he had thought dead and said yes.
Outside a breeze blew light across the field next to the library. Lecher and Grog followed the sidewalk around the building to a small concrete amphitheater. Each sat, Letcher with a grunt and pops and Grog with the ease of a dragon lighting on a stone wall. Grog pulled from a small pouch around his waist a stone, spit on it, and began to sharpen Metal Death.
"I thought I'd find out who she was. But then you came. Right before, we were out here. Everybody. The eclipse came and then you came. I thought I'd find out more, though," Lecher said.
Grog waited and let his mind calm with the motions of stone and metal.
"This is like that time in Gocanti. Right?" Lecher said.
Grog said nothing. He listened to the old man remember his youth, not so long ago for Grog, and the sing of the blade as the stone honed the edge.
"It was like now. Little cold, but that could be my bones. Breeze in the air. I had a hell of a time with the fire, but I got it going with that damn iron wood. Smokeless. Still not sure how you found me in that forest," Lecher said.
"Smell," Grog said.
Lecher didn't know if Grog meant the campfire or Lecher himself. Could be a joke or not, for the big man rarely smiled. He said, "The Goconti, they were hiding that fella with the ax for a hand. Don't even remember his name, been so long. Time's off here. Slower. I came with nothing, in a time called the seventies. It's the tens or something now. I can't keep up. They change so much in this world. So fast. Back home, that sword or my knives solved most problems. Here they create them. I learned how this world works just in time for them to change it with computers."
He saw the confusion on Grog's face. He said, "The light screens. Computers. Can't seem to get them."
Grog continued to sharpen his sword. Up and down. Stone on metal. Shining steel in the afternoon sun.
"They followed me here," Lecher said.
Grog stopped. "Who?" he said.
"Some of Thorn's guards. I killed them, no matter. Some of them."
Grog went back to sharpening with a grunt.
"Well, followed is wrong. They seemed as surprised as me. I don't think she had control then. Not much. Those guards got caught up in the portals, same as me. One, we came in on one of the streets and this thing they got called a bus run him over." Lecher clapped his hands, laughing. "That left two, case there was three in all. At first. We came out over there by that dumpster. I ran and they chased. We went downtown. Killed one behind this restaurant, diner. They know me there. Matt's Place. Good meatloaf. I'll take you."
"What about the others?" Grog said.
"Oh, I killed them. There was confusion after that. Dead bodies don't happen often here, Grog. Well, they do, but not like back home. People notice if the wrong people die," Lecher said.
"Who are the wrong people?" Grog said.
Lecher laughed again and threw up his hands. "I don't know. But you know what?"
"About twenty years ago, another portal opened. Portents like the sky darkening and a storm. This guy who I used to pal around with, Oscar, he told me. I was away at the time. Got a little job in the art business."
"And?" Grog said.
"Most of the art in this world is crap. They don't protect it. I could just walk in and grab most stuff. There's this abstract stuff I kinda like, but I have to show you this one guy who did these things. One, called Starry Night-"
"About the portal, Lecher," Grog said.
"Oh, yeah," Lecher said and paused. His eyes were off on a piece of art at another place in another time. Grog waited until his friend caught up and came back around to the present.
Lecher said, "Oscar said this purple portal opened up, just popped open like some movie, and these guys came out of it all dressed in tunics with the Thorn's mark."
"They seemed to know more than I did, the way Oscar tells it. Scouts most likely, because they went back in the portal. Oscar said later they stayed longer."
"The portals opened for a long time?" Grog went back to his sword, sharpening it.
Lecher said, "I've seen it myself. When I came back, Oscar told me about it. Told me to stay away from the portal and the men. Seemed the men liked to ask questions and recruit if they could People went missing. And that's not the best part."
Grog said, "She's here."
Lecher nodded. "A big storm, another eclipse. I could feel it. What little magic I had has dwindled over the years and this world had none. I know what it feels like, though. And whoever she is playing at, she's not wearing them robes or the mask. She's be out there and I got an idea about who she and a few of her soldiers are."
Around the front of the library came the "whoop-whoop" of a police siren. Grog, altered by the sound, stood and brought Metal Death up.
Lecher said, "Don't worry. You haven't done anything wrong. They'll think you're a cosplayer or-"
The old man's voice cut off and became a gasp and a gurgle. Grog turned and found an arrow sticking out of this old friend's throat.
Stay tuned on Fridays for the continuing adventures of Grog the Destroyer and how he became the Banned Library's children's librarian.
Or you could wait until we collect them all and buy them from the bookstore.