They say that one man’s misfortune is another man's opportunity. Those are, I have long found, words to live by.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Reverie Larkin. Powerful. Older gentleman. Member of City Council. Lives in a big old house on a high hill—and to the best of my knowledge, possesses the largest, most extensive collection of books on or related to magic anywhere in the city. The library at Barrows School of course falling outside municipal limits. It appears he also has something of an infestation.
Brownies are fascinating creatures . Despite the fact that they are seldom seen or heard, records of them date back to antiquity. Generous to a fault, they are known to do good turns for needy folk, for no more reward than a little gratitude and a seat by the fire. They’ll scour the grease from your pots, fix the hole in your shoe, and even steep your tea, if you provide the leaves. This is the first case I’ve heard of their doing work deemed to be... undesirable.
The gossip goes that on a quiet morning past, Mr. Larkin was walking his shelves, enjoying perhaps, the smell of musty old books and dry leather, when he discovered something was amiss.
In a long row of magical textbooks, he observed that his copy of Transfiguration: Grade 4, despite being published sometime in the nineteen-eighties and having passed through no small number of careless adolescent hands, was pristine. The volumes to either side of it--in this case, Grades 3 and 5--still possessed their hard earned ah... patina. But Grade 4 suddenly looked new enough to be fresh off the presses. Intrigued and a little alarmed, old Reverie slid the book from the shelf and opened it up. Apparently the next door neighbors heard him shouting all the way from their living room. At the bottom of the hill.
You see, the it wasn’t just that the cover had had a bit of touching up. The entire inside of the book had been expertly replaced... with a blank sketchbook of roughly the same dimensions. Having made this discovery, Larkin did what anyone would have in the same situation: he ran downstairs to his much larger, vault-like, hermetically-sealed archive of back- up copies and duplicates. I believe that when he opened the drawer containing his extra volumes of the Transfiguration textbook and found that they’d all been fixed, the shock nearly killed him.
There was a fruitless—and I gather quite perfunctory—investigation by the Guild. Councilman Larkin was in quite a state. I heard through the grapevine of his little predicament, and saw my chance. I called him up and referred him to the best sleuth I know—who also happens to live upstairs and was behind on the rent—the dogged private detective, P.T. Lyfantod. I assured old Reverie that Lyfantod wouldn’t rest until he’d found the culprit.
Well, it took a bit longer than I expected, but after a little over a week of sleepless nights spent camping on Larkin’s floor, Lyfantod had our answer. It seemed that Reverie was the victim of a troupe of misguided Brownies. They must have got it into their heads that his dusty old tomes needed a touch of freshening up. As for why they settled on doing every copy of Transfiguration: Grade 4, the truth remains a mystery.
The reason all of this is relevant to you is that Councilman Larkin was very eager to be rid of what he considers a potential contamination. He couldn’t get those empty tomes out of his sight fast enough. In other words, he sold them to me at a very reasonable price. Now you may be thinking, ‘What the devil would I want with a bunch of blank copies of an old textbook?’ The answer is simple. For all that it was unasked for, the Brownies do good work. And considering the quality of the paper they used, I am confident that there are plenty of people out there who are in the market for a well-made sketchbook.
If that sounds like you, you know where to find me. And incidentally, though Lyfantod did solve the mystery, he never actually managed to catch the overzealous little imps. So there’s a good chance I’ll have more selection in the future.