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The Gift of Books

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Caleb was in a mix of awe and shock. He went to bed owning four books and woke to having seven. The three new books consisted of a book of tales from a faraway land, and the text contained a few words that Molly would say from time to time, a monster encyclopedia, and a book on magic.

“Nott,” Caleb coaxed her over, “Did you buy me these?”

“Jester and I went shopping yesterday; she bought you these as a present.” Nott pointed to the magic book. “I picked this one out. I don’t know many words in your language, but the man at the shop said it was on magic.”

“I,” Caleb paused and hugged his little friend, “thank you.”

Nott smiled and led the way down to the tavern. Most of their group was already awake and waiting for breakfast; lightly discussing their travel plans. Among them sat Jester who perked up with an excited expression when she saw them. Nott went over to the cleric’s side, and the two whispered back and forth a few times.

“We ordered enough for everyone,” Fjord told Caleb as he approached the table.

“Thank you,” Caleb responded.

“Did you like the presents, Caleb?” Jester asked.

“Ah, yes, thank you,” he answered while sitting down.

Jester looked a little hopeful as she leaned across the table. “Do you think you could read two stories tonight, one from each storybook?” she wondered.

“Or more,” Nott added with her voice full of hope.

Caleb glanced at the pair. From the corner of his eye, he saw the amused looks Fjord and Beau had. It was amusing in a way; an adult tiefling and goblin were looking at him like children begging for their favorite sweets.

The wizard thought about it and nodded. “I can start reading more stories at night, but you’ll have to keep an eye out for more books. If I read two or three a night we’ll finish the books we do have,” he said with the hope that for every storybook the pair bought they’d also buy a magic book for him.

Jester and Nott squealed in delight; the pair did a little dance in their seat. Fjord chuckled at the joy coming from them, and Beau smiled. But as the joy died down with the arrival of food, Jester’s expression turned thoughtful which was then followed with a look that promised mischief.

“If we get this for buying a new magic book, I wonder what we’ll get in return if we buy Caleb new clothes and a bath,” she fake whispered to Nott, her voice just as loud as if she was talking.

Caleb coughed, choking on the small bite of bacon he had.

“Girls,” Fjord scolded as he went to Caleb’s aid, giving the man a hard smack on the back to clear his windpipe. “Don’t talk, just drink.”

Caleb nodded at the command and guzzled the ale in front of him.

Jester batted her eyes innocently, but the grin on her lips was anything but. Fjord sent more disapproving looks at her on Caleb’s behalf.

“Caleb won’t be able to talk if you keep shocking him like that,” Fjord pointed out, “which means you won’t get more stories at night.”

Jester and Nott’s face fell. The object for a prank, an incomplete spell, dispersed from Jester’s hand as she went very quiet and instantly started to behave.

“I think I’ve created a monster,” Caleb wheezed.

Fjord gave Caleb a pointed look, and the man responded by drinking more until he didn’t feel pain in the back of his throat.

Hours later, when it was time to set up camp, Caleb found four more books hidden in his bedroll.