The thick layers of dust coating everything in the library, gathered up due to centuries of disuse, glimmered with a spectral glow in the dim light that leaked in through the tightly-drawn curtains over the windows.
At one end of the cavernous room an enormous oak door creaked open and a small figure drifted in, thumbing through a leather-bound book clutched in his blue-skinned hands. Upon entering the library he paused and glanced up, taking in the room with a slow swivel of his head. His bright green eyes, the right one sporting a monocle, stood out in sharp contrast to the dark blue of the rest of his body. They narrowed in distaste.
"Oh, what a mess this place has become," he said irritably to himself, snapping his book closed. His voice, though somewhat high-pitched, carried a British accent.
With a pair of black bat-like wings beating furiously on his back, he flew over to a crammed bookcase and pushed the book he was carrying into a lone empty spot on the bottom shelf. A cloud of dust billowed up with the contact and he ducked his head to the side, coughing into his fist. He waved his wand and vanished the dust, frowning. To reiterate: what a mess this place had become.
He flew up to the top of the bookcase, running his fingers across the spines of the books in a row before selecting one at random and taking hold of it by his fingertips, gingerly pulling it out. More dust erupted in his face and he waved it away, flying up even higher to escape the dust cloud. Once the dirt had settled he opened the cover of the new book. The spine made a cracking sound and he winced slightly, hoping it wouldn't break. It didn't, and he rifled through the pages with the tip of his nose nearly brushing the aged parchment.
Ever since the Anti-Fairies had reclaimed this castle he had systematically gone through every book in the library, searching for… something. He and his kind had been banished from their own domain for so many centuries that he was no longer completely sure of the inventory of books in his private library, which he had once known inside and out. Even now he was coming across books he had entirely forgotten the existence of.
There was one book he did remember, at least vaguely, and he knew that his tireless searching was in part to find that book—though he could not entirely remember its contents. It was powerful, though, and one of the most ancient books in his library. He'd know it when he found it. Until then he'd have to keep looking, though as of late he had found it difficult to make time to read. Too much to do, far too much, and—
…Ugh. Half of this page was missing.
"Anti-Wanda's been eating the books again," he said with a sniff, closing the book. He dropped back down until he hovered only a few feet above the ground and slipped back out into the hall with the book under his arm, pulling the oak door closed again.
There he straightened up, adjusted his monocle, and cleared his throat before loudly calling, "FOOP!"
With a blue puff of smoke the cube-shaped Anti-Fairy baby materialized. He was holding two damaged fairy figurines which, beat-up and singed as they were, looked like they had recently been put through both a duel to the death with each other and a narrow escape from the furnace.
"Yes, Father?" Foop drawled, dropping his arms and anti-poof!ing the figurines away.
Anti-Cosmo jabbed a finger at the library door. "That room is a disgrace! I gave you the task of keeping the library clean and respectable—and keeping your mother out of it." He displayed the chewed page to his son and closed the book again. "It was your responsibility!"
"Father, if you don't mind, I'm far too busy for that drivel." Foop's expression hadn't changed.
"Don't take that tone with me, or I'll turn you into a toad!" Anti-Cosmo pushed closer to the Anti-baby, his face tinged a livid shade of purple.
"I will just change back, Father!"
Anti-Cosmo smirked, triumphant, and pulled back. "You don't have complete control over your shape-shifting yet, or even enough magic for it. You're talking nonsense!"
Foop opened his mouth to say something but then closed it again and frowned. "…Touché, Father, touché."
Anti-Cosmo pointed to the library door again. "Now, the library. Must I ask you again?"
Foop crossed his arms, lips pursed in a pout. "Can't I do that later?"
Disobedient pest. He would learn to respect his elders and betters… In time, in time.
Anti-Cosmo sighed. "Very well."
It wasn't as if a few more hours or even a few more days could harm the library much more, anyway. When the Anti-Fairies had escaped the fairy prisons and returned back to Anti-Fairy World, their true home, they had found the entire place filthy and in near ruins. Anti-Cosmo just hadn't had the chance to do much about the dreadful state of the library. At least he still had his most prized books locked away in his bedroom, kept perfect and pristine and hidden where neither dust nor grubby Anti-fingers could find them.
Besides, he had pressing matters to attend to. He didn't have time for—hold the phone.
He had been floating off down the corridor but now he whipped back around and peered at his son suspiciously. "Foop, with what exactly are you 'far too busy' to clean the library?"
Fear and perhaps guilt passed over the baby's face before he masked the feelings with a façade of nonchalance. "Oh, er, things."
Anti-Cosmo floated closer, ready to spring at a moment's notice. "You can't be busy. You are barely three months old."
Foop stiffened in reproach. "Yes, so young, and you would have me clean the library!" His eyes grew bigger, as if he was attempting to appeal to a side of Anti-Cosmo that took pity on cute things. No such side existed.
Besides, this creature wasn't even cute. Now spiders—spiders were cute.
…But this was getting nowhere. Anti-Cosmo shook his head, silently declaring the conversation over and heading down the corridor again, still clutching his book. After a few seconds his eyes flicked to look over his shoulder.
Foop was following him.
"Father, may I ask; what are you always so busy with?" the baby said.
Ha! As if he would tell the little monster anything. Where had that gotten them last time? Oh, that's right—the entirety of Anti-Fairy World drained of magic. "That does not concern you," he said instead.
Foop changed tactics. "Father, how old are you?"
Odd question. Fairies and Anti-Fairies hardly bothered with their age. They lived forever, so what was the point of counting years?
Although… Anti-Cosmo knew exactly how old he was, of course. But that didn't mean he had to tell his son. "That does not concern you, either."
Foop sped up until the two of them were drifting at the same pace. "Cosmo is the second-youngest fairy in existence. Anti-Fairies are always born on the thirteenth day of the thirteenth month after their fairy counterparts are born."
Where was this information coming from? Curses, the boy had been doing his research. Anti-Cosmo did not deign to reply.
"You see where I'm going with this, Father," Foop continued. "You're the youngest Anti-Fairy in existence, save for me. You're even younger than Cosmo."
Anti-Cosmo was gripping the ebony handle of his magic wand so tightly that his knuckles were pale and the veins in the back of his hand stood out. "…Yes. That's true."
Foop pressed on. "You're the youngest, but you're the leader and guardian of Anti-Fairy World! Ruler of all you survey—everything the light doesn't touch is yours!" His voice had taken on a tone that sounded like he was talking about himself rather than his father. "So much power, and you don't even use it!"
"That's quite enough of that." Anti-Cosmo twisted his head to scowl at his son. "Do I need to take your bottle away again?"
Foop yawned. "Threaten all you want. Mother will just get me a new ba-ba. I mean, bottle."
"One more thing I must ask," Foop said carefully. "How did you, the youngest Anti-Fairy, become ruler of Anti-Fairy World?" The baby was grinning, baring his little pearly fangs.
Egads, living with this boy was like living with a viper. You never knew when it would strike.
Anti-Cosmo turned and lifted himself higher with a powerful downstroke of his wings so that he towered over the Anti-baby, the torches in the hall dimming down and throwing savage shadows over his face. "Listen well, Foop. Get all of those silly ideas out of your head. You'll not be ruling Anti-Fairy World—not now, not ever! It is my domain, and mine alone! If you try anything to the contrary, I'll send you straight back to Jorgen and you'll end up in Abracatraz again!"
Ohh, Jorgen would give his left leg to get the Anti-Fairies back in that ghastly prison, especially with Friday the 13th little more than a week away. Luckily even Jorgen did not dare set foot in Anti-Fairy World except for extremely urgent business.
The wave of rage passed and the hall brightened once more. Anti-Cosmo sank back down. "Perhaps when we rule the universe you can have control over the Earth, or something."
Evidently this conversation had taken a sharp turn from the direction Foop had intended. He threw his bottle to the ground so hard that the plastic cracked and juice leaked out onto the flagstones. "I don't want the Earth. The Earth is boring!"
"Tough tacos! You're lucky I'm considering giving you anything!" Anti-Cosmo retrieved the discarded bottle and tossed it back to Foop, distractedly cleaning up the spilled liquid with a wave of his wand. "Go find your mother and get her to fix this thing and refill it with juice before you leave for Spellementary School. You know you could get dehydrated without it."
Scowling, Foop snatched his bottle back. "I loathe you."
He disappeared with a little pop.
"The feeling is mutual!" Anti-Cosmo called back. Then he, too, anti-poof!ed away.