The call of Kaapulhu
Since her return from Non-Existence, Patricia Kate had never really been the same. Given that time in Ærria passed at a faster rate than on Earth, Miles Fenn had blamed Kate’s strange disposition on jet lag. Ayesha suspected Kate’s journey beyond the fabric of reality had triggered some form of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Vivian knew precisely what was going on with her albino friend. Kate’s ailment, she thought, had a very particular name; a name Kate’s been cursing and jinxing since her return from Ærria.
‘That Lucian Blossom doesn’t know what he’s missing!’ Kate declared for the umpteenth time that day. ‘It’s all books before girls, with that lad. Virtually broke up with me over a library. Not going to hold any grudges, though. It’s his loss.’
Vivian, who knew better than to disagree, returned an approving nod.
‘Anyway, I was wondering whether I can borrow Kaap for the day,’ said Kate out of the blue.
Vivian eyed her suspiciously. ‘What do you want with him?’
Kate folded her arms, looking dignified. ‘I’m not going to see Lucian Blossom, if that’s what you’re afraid of!’
‘Wouldn’t be any of my business if you did,’ said Vivian.
Later that day, Patricia Kate was feverishly pacing around the Amberville Manor Library. Between her arms she cradled the shape-shifting reality-bending creature called Kaap.
‘Kaap not want to scare Lucian Blossom!’ Kaap’s thoughts punctured the inside of Kate’s mind. ‘Lucian Blossom good friend of Kaap. Kaap refuse to scare—’
‘I’ll give you two gallons of pistachios,’ said Kate tentatively. ‘That’s a hundred times more than you ate the whole month.’
Kaap’s fur turned a fierce shade of green; his sharp muzzle broke into an ear-to-ear smile. ‘Exactly how scary must Kaap be?’
Kate pulled out a battered old book. The author and title had faded with age, but the grotesque illustration of a human-dragon-octopus hybrid could still be observed across the scratched covers.
Kate gave Kaap a look of complete reverence. ‘Do you think you can turn yourself into this creature?’
Inside the Record Room – the majestic Alarian Library – a single candle disturbed the darkness. Lucian Blossom was bent over a large leather tome, his glasses balancing on the tip of his nose. Suddenly, a dimple appeared on the cheeks of reality, and the space-time continuum cooked up and shrivelled, like a piece of steak left too long on the grill. Somewhere behind Lucian, a candle breathed its last.
‘Someone there?’ Lucian asked the darkness, his bespectacled eyes pasted onto the hole in reality.
‘Someone,’ said the Darkness, through a pair of tendril-ridden lips.
In fact, Lucian wasn’t entirely sure whether the monstrous abomination retained “lips”, or whether the squid-like feelers sprouting around its face-hole served any real purpose outside civilized conversations, but he wasn’t going to stick around to find out. As quickly one could say ‘Hic sunt dracones’, Lucian Blossom mounted his feet on his shoulders and made himself scarce.
Kaap shifted back to his usual, dwarfish shape and returned to the Amberville Manor, where Patricia Kate was waiting with bated breath.
‘Did it work?’
Kaap made an undulating gesture with his hand. ‘Kaap not sure.’
‘What do you mean, Kaap? Was Lucian not scared?’
Kaap tilted his head from side to side. ‘Kaap reckon it take a hundred gallon pistachio more till Lucian sufficiently scared.’