Lola Bourgeious left the library with a massive smile on her face, holding the grimoire in the air. Its small black eye spun madly in its socket, trying to see everything around it. It made her giggle. "You've never been outside of the library, have you? Don't worry - I'm going to take you to all my favorite places!"
She knew her father was smiling with that strange expression in his eyes. She knew that expression meant he thought she was being silly, and she also knew that he would probably do a lot more curse detections in the next few weeks. She knew he wouldn't find anything, any more than he'd checked today. When it came to curses and curing them, nobody in all of Careolis could beat her father.
She skipped down the white quartz steps, one hand on the golden railing. Lola had never been sure if it was real gold, or if it had been transmuted. The fancy people going into the library and wandering the street tended to avoid her, but not in a mean way. At least, most of them...
A man bigger than most horses approached her and lifted her into the air easily. "Why, hello there, little Lola!" he boomed cheerfully. "What have you got there?"
She shrieked in delight and spread her arms out, pretending she was flying. Her father stopped at the bottom of the steps, a large smile breaking out on his face despite his normally taciturn manner. "How are you doing, Francis?"
The mountain of a man grinned hugely. "I'm doing well, you dusty old businessman. Come on, Isaac, you need to get Lola out of the house more often!"
He gestured to Lola, still holding tightly to her newest addition to the house library. "She's out now, isn't she?"
Francis bent down, his knees coming up to his chest as he came to her eye level. "What's that, Lola?"
She showed him the book excitedly. "It's my very own grimoire!"
His bushy eyebrows shot up at that. "Oho, you're going to become the greatest wizardess the city's ever..."
Isaac winced in spite of himself. Francis had seen the book's cover. "Is that an eye?"
Nodding rapidly, Lola handed him the book. The eye set in the cover saw Francis and stopped moving, widening as if it were surprised. Exactly as if it were surprised, really... Isaac shook his head. The number of sentient books in the world could be counted with one hand, and of those, only one was sane. Shivering at the memory of the now-rampant Compendium, he remembered that three of those books were safe and secure in various vaults and museums. There were rumors that the previous Magelord had created one, but Isaac knew that wasn't the case. She had been ridiculously powerful, yes, but it took a special kind of absurd to write a living book.
"Isaac? You finally drifting off there?" Francis was back to his normal jolly self and looking at him with only a mild amount of concern.
Shaking his head, Isaac smiled. A grimoire with an eye, even a well-made one, wasn't horribly rare, and he knew Lola was going to make it look brand new, eye or not. "Not for quite some time, you boulder."
Francis stood up to his full height and flexed slightly, making his suit pop. "Boulder? You're not even going to call me a mountain?"
Lola hugged his legs, her arms barely wrapping around his waist. "You're bigger than all the mountains!" Francis laughed and picked her up, setting her on his shoulder. Her legs dangled as her hair drifted in the slight breeze, and she giggled, trying to see to the end of the street.
Walking down the road, they made an odd but familiar group, Isaac with his dignified, composed air and Francis with his barely-fitting custom-made suit and a personality that could only be described as enormous. The friendly giant seemed to grow more every year. His carefully styled mane of blond hair and his almost soft features combined with his humorous attitude to create an overall lovable personality. The colossal size was more of an occupational perk.
Isaac called up to Lola, still sitting on his shoulder. "All right, what materials do you need today?" The young girl had a childishly serious face as she examined the beat-up grimoire. Neither Francis nor Isaac interrupted her. She might only be eleven, but she'd probably fixed up more books than the library they'd just left, and she was good at it, too.
People moved out of their way, polite but firm in their perpetual hurry to get to wherever they were going. The air was full of the mismatched smells of the various shops and stalls, guards frequently patrolling underneath the metal-woven lattice of lighting above the main street's carefully cobbled road. They could take their time. No one was stupid enough to commit a crime anywhere near Francis Conderie.
"I need polished orc leather, shined magiron, Kraken ink, and some..."
Francis' eyebrows raised higher and higher, and the price rose with them. Even some of the people walking nearby gaped a bit at the cost of some of the components. When she was finally finished, he whistled lowly. "That's an expensive book you're making there, hun."
She shrugged, only thinking of the end result. "It's going to be mine, isn't it?"
Isaac snorted very in a less-than-gentlemanly manner. "She's got a point there. I'm sure Antonie will give us a discount."
Setting Lola down, Francis slowed his pace slightly, allowing her to run ahead, pushing through the legs of aristocratic shoppers. He leaned down towards Isaac and whispered with more subtlety than most would give him credit for. "You've curse-checked that thing, right?"
Isaac looked at him with an almost disappointed expression. "What do you think?"
Francis backed away, hands raised. "I'm just saying, you should probably find out where that book came from before you let your daughter use it."
Shrugging, the smaller man responded, "It's a book, and an almost blank one at that. I don't believe it's possible for it to be very dangerous."
[WARNING! Flag raised! Rewinding and repairing... Failed!]
Francis shivered. "D'you ever get a feeling some bad just happened? Like the world's turning in its grave?"
Isaac thought about it for a moment. "No, not really."
Lola shouted at them, several hundred feet ahead. "Father, catch up!"
She ran back towards them, the dirty beaten-up old grimoire in hand. She stopped in front of the two men, a pouty look on her ordinarily composed face. "Why are you walking so slowly? I want to fix Codex as soon as I can!"
Isaac suddenly knew exactly what Francis was talking about. "...You named the book?"
Lola nodded repeatedly. "Yup! I used my own magic and everything!" She held up the book and, just above the eye, barely visible through the grime, was a single word. Francis said something less than polite under his breath. Isaac heard it, and while embarrassed, quietly agreed. Lola, thankfully, did not hear the comment.
Of course, his daughter didn't know about Naming a book, especially a grimoire, and that went double for one with an eye. Strange and, frankly, freakish things happened when you gave books Names. It wasn't as if Isaac had covered it previously, but just in case...
As she turned around, heading back to the repair shop, Isaac performed another curse check, this one of a significantly higher grade.
...still nothing. Good.
Isaac watched her walk away, calling for them to catch up.
"I know what you mean now."
Francis just nodded, a mildly worried expression on his face.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Antonie Martie's shop was considered to be the very best book repair shop in Careolis. It was a small building, fitted tightly between a bank and a theater but somehow retained its personality year after year. The old wooden front was carefully maintained and polished monthly, and it matched the worn sign above the street, which simply read, "Cheap Repair". The shop had been in her family since before the city was there, and she rarely let anyone forget it. Regardless of her high reputation and famed skill, the stout young woman retained a hearty sense of humor that showed in her odd policy - not wearing a tie got you a discount.
She smiled at the young girl walking into her shop, as she did every week. "Hello, Lola. How are you?"
Running up to the counter and blatantly ignoring the man in line, she stretched as high as she could and placed the dirtiest book Antonie had ever seen on the counter, an eye spinning madly in the center of the cover. "Can I help you fix this?"
She couldn't help but laugh. "Do you want to help or do you want to do it yourself?"
Lola grinned hugely, twin dimples appearing. "I wanna do it!"
The experienced bookbinder laughed again and took a closer look at the book and realized, under the grime, it was made of some rather unfamiliar materials. "Where'd you get this?"
"We purchased it from the library. It's a grimoire that Lola named herself."
Looking up from the book, Antonie saw Lola's father and her 'uncle' walk in. Well, Isaac walked in. Francis ducked, and the doorway still creaked as his huge frame pressed against the sides. It was what the smaller man said more than the dust shaking from the roof that surprised the older woman. "A Named book, eh..." She looked deeply and could barely make out a cursive 'Codex'.
"...You really might want to wash your hands, Lola. This thing is filthy."
She could have sworn it glared at her.
As Lola walked into the back room, the customer resigned himself to the fact that it was going to be a while before the shop wasn't doing anything not related to the number-one businessman and the former royal Champion.
"I'll just come back tomorrow."
"See you then, Jerome!"
The moment the door closed, she leaned forward, the two men reciprocating the gesture. "Is that thing really named?"
Isaac nodded rapidly, knowing that Lola would be back soon.
"And you've curse-checked it, right?"
Isaac threw up his hands. "I give up. Why do you both ask that when you know - you know - that I check everything we buy. And that's just the groceries, much less a dirty, ill-maintained spellbook that's is almost entirely blank which, let's not forget, wasn't even registered to the library? I didn't want to buy the darn thing, but they didn't want to repair it, and when a book isn't in their system, they don't even charge for it! How am I supposed to turn down a book that my daughter wants when I don't even need to pay for it!"
There was a silence as Francis and Antonie stared at him. A man who had previously gone unnoticed stood up in the corner and awkwardly walked out of the shop without saying anything. Isaac's face was flushed from expressing his feelings so thoroughly.
"Well," Antonie started, "I suppose that makes sense."
Francis nodded. "I didn't know about any of that, I figured she just asked you to buy it and you just agreed with that dumb look on your face."
Both of them turned to look at him. "What dumb look?"
Lola came out of the restroom, her still-drying hands held out in front of her with a focused expression on her face. "I'm done! Can we fix it?"
Antonie bent down, smiling, and told her, "You sure can. Let's go do it right now, but we have to be safe, remember?"
The young girl nodded and grabbed the book, heading to the back of the shop. Antonie followed her, picking up her toolkit as she did.
"Can you even see the face you make when she tells you anything?"
"Shut up, Francis."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The back of the shop was in a state that could only be described as organized chaos, tools and materials lying about in no real order. Despite the obvious mess, Antonie moved in a way that suggested she clearly knew the exact location of any and everything she needed. Lola didn't quite share her pinpoint knowledge, but still seemed aware of what tools she needed and where they were. The room was dimly lit thanks to the single lantern hanging from the center of the room, the sleepy fire slime inside illuminating the messy desk nearby.
Setting the book on top of it, Lola selected a scalpel and carefully opened the cover, the eye on the front spinning crazily. With immense care and precision, Lola's steady hands didn't budge, slowly cutting the binding of the front away.
In a strange way, Antoine wanted to hand the store over to the young girl when she retired, even though she knew it would likely pass to her own younger sister.
"Miss Antoine? I don't really know what to do now. I've never done this with an eye before." Lola's curious voice snapped her out of her distraction. She leaned over the book, keeping a close eye on the sharp knife in Lola's cautious grip. The filthy cover had been neatly and precisely removed, revealing a spongy and yet almost bone-like material underneath. The eye had rolled back into the thick front as if it could feel the process, and Antoine felt another twinge of doubt. She knew books, and books didn't tend to react to repairs no matter how enchanted or mutated they were. Just above the eye was a barely visible imprint of its new name, sunken into the strange material.
"Well, I've only worked on a few dozen or so books with eyes, and none of them were in as bad of a condition as this. We'll have to basically rebind the whole thing. Make sure not to touch the eye, it looks to be fairly clean."
Lola nodded, focusing on the tip of her scalpel again. "Okay. I'm really sorry, Codex, but you'll feel much better afterward."
As the young girl worked, Antoine smelled a slight burning and stiffened. Fire in a bookshop was an owner's nightmare. Checking the side of the desk, she saw the old cover curling up as if it were being burned, blackening and shriveling into ash, though no fire was visible.
As the ash disintegrated into nothing and rose into the air, she decided to make Isaac triple check the grimoire, no matter how much he was sure it was safe.