A lone figure crept through the shadows.
The caution was largely unwarranted; this was a distant corner of the castle, far from the hustle and bustle of the staff, in fact the last hallway in the western wing. On the off chance someone were around, this particular hallway was still plenty dark enough for a hasty retreat. Only a scant few torches dotted the walls, one at each bend or curve along the twisty passageway, their feeble glow barely reaching the cobblestone floor below. The decor would have better suited a forgotten dungeon.
On the other hand, the figure knew all too well who owned this castle—and what she did to visitors, let alone to trespassers. Best to be careful.
The corridor eventually ended at a pair of wooden double doors, framed on either side by the only healthy-looking torches this side of the kitchen. Despite that, the doors were hardly worth illuminating; besides twin polished metal push plates, they were completely unadorned. Not even a sign to indicate the importance of this room.
The silhouette lurked at the edge of the torches' radius and traced his gaze along the stone archway fitted snugly around the doors. Not the slightest crack of light betrayed the room within, even along the floor; as far as he could tell, beyond here lay only darkness. Perfect; they'd be asleep now.
He stepped into the dim light, revealing himself for the first time, and touched a palm to one panel. The cool steel and the quiet tinkle of his claws against it... brief familiar sensations, and harsh reminders of why he was here. He stood there for a moment with a tortured smile before he looked back at the heavy oaken door and forced himself to straighten again.
Bracing against the icy floor, he gave the door a firm shove open.
The first thing he noticed was that the door wasn't as heavy as it looked. It swung wide open, banging against something else wooden behind it.
The second thing was the searing ambient light pouring from behind the door. The infiltrator screeched and shielded his face with both hands—someone cleared his throat—as he tried to adjust from the pitch black he'd been expecting to the near-daylight now melting his eyeballs.
He blinked a few times, stumbling forward into the room. Plush carpet welcomed his cold feet, and the door settled shut behind him with a confident click.
Squinting eyes peeked out from behind parted claws, and the world slowly came back into focus. His arms fell to his sides, and he stared.
There were a lot of books.
Sometimes, Pokémon will tell you they have a lot of work to do, or they had a lot of fun on vacation, or they've had a lot of problems with PK. These Pokémon have never been to Merlot's library, so it's understandable that they don’t grasp what "a lot" means.
Shelves claimed the walls much the same way ivy overtakes an abandoned house. If not for the few gaps where side doors had barely enough room to open, you might argue that the shelves were better at it. Even in the impressive expanse of the library, they managed to cover every inch of available space in a wild pattern: adjacent shelves were often different heights, different widths, made from wood of different thicknesses or painted different colors. Small notes and complicated symbols were pinned to the front edges of a great many shelves, carefully positioned so as to not obscure any spines, and makeshift dividers jutted out in seemingly needless places. And while there were a few traditional rolling ladders, the architect had had some ideas of his own. Multiple styles of rope ladder hung down from high above, three rope-and-pulley systems were installed against the front wall alone, and off in the distance a spiral staircase to nowhere lurked near one wall.
Crammed within this wooden grid were the books. Oh, the books. As the shelves covered every inch of the walls, the books covered every inch of the shelves. Books of about the same height were kept together, just so the next shelf up could sit right atop them without wasting space. Where this wasn't possible, scrolls filled the gaps above the shorter volumes. The interior of the room was lined with long rows of freestanding shelves, as well—but since they couldn't be too tall without toppling, their tops were piled high with the more awkwardly-shaped items, globes and jars and open boxes of papers stacked in perilous arrangements.
Yet the library could hardly be called messy. Every last book stood neatly at the edge of its shelf, and not a one lay sideways on top of others or slumped in a too-wide space. None lay strewn on the floors, and even the tall piles on the cramped collection of tables near the front were squared neatly. As long as you didn't look too closely, the patterns of colors and titles and notes and dividers made for a colorful organic design all the way to the ceiling.
Part one of a story about Merlot's library by