Jackdaw’s Bookshop

The sign, a simple wooden plank, swayed with the evening breeze and Gabriel had to stop walking to read the faded lettering.  The flickering light from the distant street lamp made the task nearly impossible, but eventually he was able to confirm he had found the store he’d been looking for.  He tugged on the heavy door and stepped into Jackdaw’s Bookshop.

The door, propelled by a fresh gust of wind, banged shut behind him as his nose was assaulted by the smell of old ink and older paper.  The preciousness of the inventory meant that only a few candles were scattered about the square room leaving the interior nearly as dark as the street Gabriel had just left.  But, it was warmer inside, and that wasn’t something he was going to complain about.

He removed his gloves and let his fingers flex and soak in the comfort of a respite from the biting chill of the wind he had been traveling through.  His eyes scanned the floor to ceiling shelving system that was overflowing with books, scrolls, and piles of parchment bound in twine.  Row after row, case after case, wall after wall, the books covered nearly every inch of available space.  He was impressed with the collection and started to spin in a circle to revel in the full inventory.

A low cough broke his trance before he could turn all the way around, and he whipped his head towards the source.  His right hand dropped quickly, smoothly, a motion of experience and skill, to the hilt of the dagger on his right hip.  But, as the source of the cough came into focus, a small man seated behind a polished oak desk and mostly hidden behind an open tome, he relaxed and let his hand drop, just as smoothly, to his side.

Gabriel’s lips twisted into a mischievous smile.  If the man behind the desk was Jackdaw, and the rumors were true, his dagger wouldn’t have done him much good anyway.  Gabriel wasn’t one to doubt his own abilities though and was sure if a fight had arisen the outcome wasn’t certain.  He always gave himself a chance.

“Can I help you?”  While small, the seated man’s voice was deep, and the words were clear despite how quietly they had been spoken.

Gabriel left the mischievous smile in place and turned to face the desk.  Casually, he stepped to it.  There was a swagger to his steps, a nonchalance that hinted at a mixture of arrogance and confidence.  “Are you Jackdaw?”

A single nod was the man’s response, barely perceived in the low light of the room.

Gabriel’s smile twisted up further at the corners, “In that case, I’d like to buy your most expensive book.”

Jackdaw closed the massive book and placed it on the desk in front of him.  He leaned forward in his seat and steepled his fingers, “Who sent you?”


The animosity behind and pace with which Jackdaw scowled nearly sent Gabriel into motion again.  He held his composure and his resolve, but grew increasingly worried as hatred dripped from Jackdaw’s eyes.

“What makes you think I’ll sell you anything?”  He growled.  The words were aired with such force that they echoed off the books in a cacophony of ringing threats.

In reply, Gabriel withdrew his money pouch from his belt and placed the bag on the desk so more than a few coins would spill onto the wooden surface.  The candlelight flashed in brilliant caresses on the rich hue.  “I pay in gold.”

Jackdaw’s eyes drifted down to the pile of money.  Gabriel was disturbed by how relieved he felt to no longer be under the bookshop keeper’s intense glare.  A voice in his head told him to run, but he had learned long ago that voice couldn’t be trusted.  That didn’t keep him from flinching when Jackdaw reached across the desk to feel the heft of the money pouch.

When Gabriel felt Jackdaw’s eyes return to studying him, he was happy to see that the animosity had been replaced by curiosity.  “This is more than my normal fee, but considering who sent you, I think you knew I’d need more, didn’t you?”

It was Gabriel’s turn to provide a single nod in response.

“Okay.  You say you want my most expensive book but which edition do you want?”

“I would like to be able to shape shift into a shadow.”

Jackdaw raised a single eyebrow, “Do you mean a spirit, or the kind cast by light?”

“The kind cast by light.”

Jackdaw’s deranged smile unnerved Gabriel more than the glare had moments before.

The shopkeeper swiveled in his chair and withdrew a silver key from a pocket hidden deep within his robes.  The key was inserted into a safe that had been painted to resemble the books and shelves that lined the rest of the walls.

Jackdaw withdrew a small leather bound book and then returned his attention to his new client.  “Are you sure?”

Gabriel provided the single nod again, and Jackdaw flipped open the book and began chanting.  The change was instantaneous.  He felt his body melt away and he drifted to the floor to shift with the whims of the candles.

“To return to your normal shape you just need to clear your thoughts and picture taking a step in your body and then will bring you forward again.”

Gabriel followed the instructions and he was once again standing in front of Jackdaw’s desk.  “And to return to being a shadow?”

“Think of being a shadow and it will be so.”

Before Jackdaw had finished giving the answer, Gabriel had already disappeared again.  The shopkeeper wasn’t suprised moments later to see a section of shadow break away and slink across the floor to slip under the door.  He cast a few spells to make sure, and once he was certain he was alone again, he picked up the tome and began reading where he had left off.


Word Count: 1,000

Off and running on a new writing challenge this week thanks to a tip from Arden for me to check it out.  I rolled a 12 and a 5.  Roll the dice for yourself and add a story to the mix:

Flash Fiction Challenge:

All you need to do this week is to use a d20 or a random number generator to consult the table at the bottom of the document to roll for a story’s title. It’s a two-part title (meaning, two random numbers 1-20) and whatever title you get must fit the story you write for it.

You’ll have 1000 words, par usual. Post at your blog, link back to the challenge post. Due in one week — January 17th, Friday — by noon EST. Easy-peasy story-squeezy.

(Example of an earlier, similar challenge here.)

The title tables are (and you’re free to put the word “The” in front of your title):

Column One

  1. Snowbound
  2. Devil’s
  3. Accursed
  4. Whispering
  5. Amethyst
  6. Griefstruck
  7. Lovestruck
  8. Red
  9. Cartographer’s
  10. Chaos
  11. Orbital
  12. Jackdaw’s
  13. Minotaur
  14. Invisible
  15. Dog Star
  16. Helical
  17. Flight of the
  18. Cerulean
  19. Seamstress’
  20. Ten-Year

 Column Two

  1. Murders
  2. Kid’s Club
  3. Angel
  4. Vault
  5. Bookshop
  6. Champion
  7. Palace
  8. Fear
  9. Skull
  10. Potion
  11. Birdhouse
  12. Encyclopedia
  13. Peacock
  14. Prison
  15. Wire
  16. Rider
  17. Story
  18. God
  19. Parasite
  20. Earth

40 thoughts on “Jackdaw’s Bookshop

  1. Yeah, I loved it! 🙂 I think Wendig does a challenge each Friday. This is the first one I’ve done. He’s a good guy to follow though if you aren’t already. Gives some good advice without boring you to death.

  2. This is really interesting. I think I may have to try it out. You developed a very interesting story by the way. I could see everything…very vivid. Then again, I’ve always enjoyed what you write. Good stuff.

  3. Hi – popped on over from terribleminds, checking out what people have written. Great flash! You do well with setting the scene, and I especially like the visual with his hand dropping smoothly to his dagger, and then the comment later how the dagger probably wouldn’t have done him much good anyway – nice hook.

  4. Wow.
    I felt like I walked into that shop. The twist with the magic spell was welcome, but your description of the bookkeeper and the store itself were great.

  5. Helical Champion is the title I come up with.

    I need to look up Helical. …. ah: having the shape or form of a helix.

    Hmmm. I’ve no idea.

    I think I’ll just re-read your story, because I liked it so much.

    • Think Tron, only instead of being in a computer, you are in a body, and you have to race down the double helix strands of DNA… the winner, is of course, the Helical Champion? No? I bet you could up with something based on that. 😉

      I’m glad you enjoyed my story and thank you for the compliment. Writer to writer praise makes me feel ten feet tall.

      • Well, ok … so they were my numbers, but you can certainly take the story title and go with it since you’ve already got an idea, and I’m still trying to figure out what a helix is (besides a character on Star Trek Voyager…) 🙂

    • I’m not sure if I’ll turn this one into a longer story or not. Too much going on at the moment, and too many open story lines already. But, I did enjoy writing, and the idea intrigues me. What is going to do with the shape shifting, indeed? I’m probably just as curious about that as you, and that curiosity may draw me back in to see where the words take me.

  6. Excellent. Mysterious and kept me reading every word right through to the end. I say it again, so good to meet a fiction writer who likes to tell stories. I’m so down with this.

    • Hooray! 😀
      I’m glad you liked it. And, yes, I’m also happy to meet fellow fiction writers on here. Especially because some of the ones I have found, while they write fantastic stories, do not engage with their readers at all. Which is sad…

      • Yeah, why is that? I’ve noticed that too. Some of them are impossible to chat with. If they want to be in the public space, why not interact? Anyway, that’s not me, and it doesn’t seem to be you either.

        I like the supernatural elements of this story, by the way, that’s a big draw for me.

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