Nizzin was an avid reader, though he was not a completionist. He’d read the better portion of hundreds of novels, but had only finished two or three, and those only because he’d started up somewhere nearer the end of the book with the forefinger and thumb of his left hand pinching a chubby stack of pages while his right turned the final few with a relaxed grace. He had always intended to reread many of his favorites but owned none of them.
In his bag he had three books that banged up against the knotted cloths wrapped around the treasure he’d stole: the first was a sword-fighting manual that masqueraded as a book of poetry, the second was a travel guide for a place he’d never been but enjoyed how in the writers comments there was couched the secret narrative of a search for a lost sibling, and the third was a novel written perhaps for younger readers but had a fantastic chapter about a red house that haunted the people who dreamed of it.
He’d already reread the portions of each that he enjoyed and there was time yet before the Starhenge revealed itself, so went out into the streets of that little town to find something to read.
Nizzin had taken a room in a poorer part of town where his meager money might be spread a bit further while he plotted his next move. The night, filled by the warm winds off the lagoons, blew through the narrow streets in sheets of ruffling dark. Little lamps and stray candles seem to buoy. Nizzin felt the drag of the dark around his ankles; he might walk straight down the cobbled streets to the sands and into the water of the lagoons and not feel any change in the cloying medium he managed. The notion of it made him giddy. He kicked his feet around as he went to see if anything might splash, but it was truly too dark to tell.
The cobbled lanes ran crinkum-crankum through the dark; there was more diversion than direction. Nizzin crouched beneath rows of low arches to pass wide windows of thick glass behind which tea drinkers obliterated the night with narcotic brews, courtyards ambushed him with seductive circles of stone like tidal pools. It took the serpentine path of Pipe Street to finally deliver Nizzin into a district blessed by hanging lanterns, sentinel streetlights & a coffee shop with a cart of disused books pushed against one wall. A muscular dire-zebra was tied out front with no immediate owner nearby and regarded Nizzin with the candor of an abused species as he passed.
Nizzin gave the giant animal a wide berth while he ordered a coffee and went to peruse the books. The barman set Nizzin’s coffee on the counter, ‘Are you looking for any-‘ , but the rest of his words were mangled by a sudden cheer of voices. Nizzin looked from the row of books to the barman, an older fellow, and said, ‘Wh- ‘. His inquiry was cut off again by that cheer.
The barman and Nizzin exchanged a look. The zebra out front made a sound of perturbation that rang out clearly without interruption. Nizzin came to the bar and took up his coffee. The barman leaned in and said, ‘There’s a pa-‘ , again the noise from nearby exploded. The barman tried again loudly, ‘There is a party.’
Nizzin felt this was now obvious.
The barman shrugged. ‘You should go see what you might.’ He paused and checked the air with his eyes as if he might spy the next cry coming. ‘The lady of the house has a vast library’, he continued throwing his glance at Nizzin’s hand’s briefly. Nizzin looked down to find that he’d carried a book from the wall over to the counter with him.
Nizzin set the book down, took a long drag off his coffee, set the cup on the counter and went to see what the party was all about. The dire-zebra offered a compact of bloodlust with it’s savage gaze as Nizzin passed then twitched it’s tale when it got no response.