books, stories of street protests

286 – “Time and the News” – Parith

Searching for the MacGuffin

“I haven’t seen this many books since we were in—“ Korr interrupted himself. He thought for a moment, then replaced the tome on the shelf before him. He whispered, “Perhaps I shouldn’t speak of that quite so loudly.”

“Perhaps not,” Parith agreed. He was looking at the spines of books stacked on the shelf across the narrow aisle. It was early in the afternoon, but the book and curio shop had lots of shelves and few windows. 

“Speak of what?” Illariel chimed in. Parith hushed her quickly, and she rolled her eyes. “Stop that.”

“Stop what?” Parith pulled a book partway out, then stuffed it back into place. 

“Shushing me. I can ask questions.” She huffed and folded her arms. Parith ran his fingers along the book spines.

“So, I do have a question. What are we looking for? I thought we were here to meet someone.” She pushed past them. “Whoever it is will be mad that we’re taking so long browsing books.”

Korr replaced a book and moved to the next shelf. “We are looking for Time Eternal.” Parith laughed at this. 

“Stop mocking me! I mean it!”

Does she ever, ever shut up? Parith put his hands on his hips and gave her the same exasperated eye roll that she had directed at him a few moments before. “We are looking for a book, titled ‘Time Eternal’. It should be in one of these shelves right here, according to the man that gave me the tip.”

She eased a little. “Ok, but why—“

“It’s a trigger.” Parith saw that she was still confused. “Just help us find it and I’ll show you what I mean.”

After a few more minutes of searching, Korr, squatting low to reach the bottom shelf, announced, “This is it.” He stood and held up the small black book for Parith. It was not much bigger than his opened hand, and not much thicker than the width of his fingers. The hard leather-bound cover was embossed with the words “Tempus Aeternum” in silver. He smiled as he noticed the spiral pattern pressed into the leather, without the silver leafing.

“Let me see!” Illariel stood on her toes to peer over Parith’s shoulder. He glanced at her and handed her the book. She looked at it, flipping through the pages. “A trigger?”

Parith pointed toward the shopkeeper standing in the glare of the window at the front of the store. He was a young man, a human, in a gray tunic, checking and rolling scrolls on a table. “Take the book to him.”

Illariel shrugged and strolled up, with Parith and Korr right behind. 

As soon as the man saw the book, he looked at Illariel, then at Parith. “An interesting choice. Did you, ah, want to buy this one?”

Parith stepped up and explained, “A friend of mine, Doriam’s his name, recommended it. He said that it would answer my questions.” 

“It might,” the clerk nodded, then looked intently into the eyes of each one. “That would depend on what your questions were.” 

Parith narrowed his eyes. “Doriam said I should talk to someone about the book. He seemed to think that would help me understand it better.”

“Very well.” Their back and forth was interrupted by a new voice, one of an older lady. She wore gray also, but hers was the full robe of a Seeker of the Great Reality. Parith recognized it from his time at their temple in The Vast last year, after the cathedral attack. At first glance, it was a plain gray robe, bound at the waist, like a cleric’s, but as he looked closer, he saw it was detailed with embroidery. The stitching was in the same color as the robe to be less discernible. But Parith recognized the spiral pattern over the left of the chest.

“Thank you, Hamrisonn, I can answer his questions.” She faced Parith and smiled. “How can I help you?”

Parith puffed his cheeks and blew a breath. “There’s so much going on…,” he mused. “Where to start? We need to know… Well, I’ve been hearing a lot about the Dragon’s Flame cult. I was there in the cathedral when they attacked last summer. Are they going to strike again? What have the Seekers heard?”

“You’re right to be worried. They are getting more active every week. We don’t know for sure what they are planning, but they are definitely stirring up trouble.” She leaned in closer to the group, who instinctively gathered. “There are also more dragon sightings in Graemalan and Emberfire. I wonder if there is a connection. It makes me very nervous, considering what we’re hearing here in Twynne Rivers.”

“Like what?”

“Threats of an uprising, increased activity in the streets. And to the north, the high elves are mustering on the edge of the Umbrawood and making flights of dragonriders over the City in the Trees.” 

“Flights?” Parith’s jaw flopped open. “They’re doing flights over Umbrawood City? Why?”

“Scouting, perhaps. Maybe just to intimidate your people. Though,” she added, “honestly, I’ve not known the wood elves to be easily intimidated. It’s rumored that King Twynnham is preparing soldiers to send to their aid. I hope the help gets to them soon enough.”

Parith and Illariel shared a worried glance.

Korr observed, “Things are moving more quickly than we had suspected. It seems we must hasten our efforts to meet Granthurg and secure the dagger.”

The Seeker pursed her lips and whistled, “The Dragon’s Tooth dagger?” As Korr nodded, she continued, “You’re too late. Our informants say that they acquired it from the Rogues’ Guild a few months ago. No one knows where they are keeping it or what they plan to do with it. Everything seems to revolve around the dragons. If they are coming to the city, like last summer, you can bet that they don’t want anyone else to have the dagger.”

Parith’s stunned expression looked like he had taken a few fists in rapid succession. He stepped back. 

“I see our news has unsettled you. I’m terribly sorry.”

Parith refocused, nodded, then mumbled, “No matter. Thanks.” He stepped toward the door. Korr followed, but Illariel hesitated before exclaiming, “Hey, what about the book? Should we take it to Eddiwarth?”

The clerk’s face shot up with attention at the sound of the name. “Did you say, ‘Eddiwarth’?”

Author’s Note: The Quest for the MacGuffin!

What on the Creator’s shaking earth is a MacGuffin? Well, here’s a good article that’ll tell you all about that.

If you don’t want to click away, here’s a general idea: A MacGuffin is a plot device. It’s an item or an idea that drives and motivates the characters and pushes the story forward. A MacGuffin is not the story itself, that’s shaped by the characters and their choices. The MacGuffin is just the thing they think they want or have to do something with.

It’s the ring that Frodo carries to Mordor. It’s the Sword of Shannara. It’s the Maltese Falcon. It’s the defeat of Ozai and the baby dragon prince.

It’s something that authors and screenwriters love to talk about.

And in our story, the MacGuffin is the Dragon’s Tooth Dagger.