Library Vignette #6 (2019)

Eric Wroth collapsed in an overstuffed maroon wingback with a sigh.  He stripped off a pair of gloves as he stretched his legs toward the fire set in a hearth a couple yards away.

Seven hours on his feet running between four different parts of the Library had taken their toll.

“It’s not the walking or running,” he said, “it’s the changes in climate and temperature that wipe you out.”

A couple feet away, on a patterned love seat, Maryam Clifford nodded in sympathy.

“I got lucky today.  Had Magic and Magical Community, different continents, but same hemisphere at least.”

“Mansion, Visitor Hall, Restricted, and Magic.”

“Oof. Both Americas, Asia, and . . . Australia?  Whose shitlist did you get on?”

Eric chuckled.

“No idea.  Or what I did.”

He stretched with a groan before inspecting his hands.

“Anything interesting?”

“New materials for Restricted . . . No clue what, but it had a ‘no skin contact’ warning, even in a box and carry bag.”

“Wow.  Haven’t seen one of those in a while.  Never carried one.”

“I don’t recommend it.  Two transfers, three sections from triage to mansion to Restricted.  Sweated bolts the whole way, just imagining what could happen if the wards failed or the bag ripped.”

Maryam grinned.

“You sound like a perfect Mundane candidate.  Nothing to worry about there, no pressure.”

Library Vignette #5 (2019)

“Sign here, please.”

“Any special instructions?” Mary Gilbert asked as she signed.  Years working in the Library’s Restricted Collection prompted a certain caution, if one wished to continue working.

“Don’t open the box,” the runner said, consulting a list.  “It ‘dampens the effect’.  And handle it as little as possible.  Uh, and Class Seven containment, whatever that means.”

Mary nodded, “Thanks.”

Class Seven was their second highest level of containment and protection.  So, whatever text was in the iron infused chalcedony box was not one of the nastiest items in their charge, but it was close.

She took a few notes as the runner left and handed the sheet off to a page.

“Catalogers.  Description, title, and location.  Don’t say the title on this one, Class Seven.”

Sometimes with the big ones even naming them could cause a reaction.  And many got grumpy, though there were some positive ones that were still dangerous.

Mary pulled on a special pair of gloves that would not react with any protections already on the box.  So far as she knew, they were unique to the Restricted Collection, and their creation one of the collection’s closely guarded secrets.

Holding the box comfortably, she took it to a small desk in the corner of the room.

“Do we know where Room 17 is now?”

The scryer held up a finger as his eyes unfocused.

“Second floor, third row, position two.  You probably have . . . twenty minutes before it shifts.”

Library Vignette #4 (2019)

The pile of stone, rubble really, and powdered rock was certainly not going to clean itself up.  It would also take rather a lot more than the simple restoration spells in his repertoire, Arden thought.

“One of those field people, wasn’t it?  Careening around like the place is indestructible,” he muttered.  “Grandstanders the lot of ‘em.  Bet it was Miller, or one of his . . . cronies.”  There, that was a suitably villainous word, he added to himself.

“Can’t say, I’m afraid, Mr. Chute,” the older librarian next to him said.  “Young Warner came into the workshop this morning and reported it.  Says he found it on his way down.”

Second floor, good sized chunk of the balustrade, Arden noted.

“Alright.  I’ll get it cleaned up and on the list, unless you might know a quicker fix?”

The other man shook his head and rapidly shuffled down the steps.

“Didn’t think so.”

Realistically, he would probably have to talk to the Chief Librarian about getting an elementalist or stone mason in to repair the damage, with a replacement.  Unless they had a librarian who could.  Possible, but unlikely.  Most of them did not go in for practical magic, and he couldn’t think of any experienced earth elementalists among the librarians.

Or . . .

Arden shrugged as he finished the clean-up.

It was a long shot, but just possible there might be a spell in the Magic Collection  If he could find it.  And if he could learn it.  The first count was likely, they put everything in the collection.  The second, though, well, it looked like the damage was beyond anything he’d fixed around the mansion before.

Library Vignette #3 (2019)

If she was very quiet, and no one else was around, sometimes Olivia de Troyes would swear she could hear the books in the Library’s Magic Collection whispering.  Not the sound of pages rustling in a breeze, but actually whispering.  She’d heard some texts in the Restricted Collection literally talked, a lot.  But, the pages and librarians over there were a strange lot and liked a sense of mystery and danger.  They probably exaggerated.

Still.

“Judith?  When did anyone check the special collections?”

“Christopher went through . . . two Wednesdays ago, I think.”

“They’re due, overdue.  I’ll head over, then.”

Olivia slid to her feet and made her way through the regular stacks.  Row upon row of mahogany shelves stretched in every direction, with brass plates denoting the aisle’s contents.  As she walked, she resisted the urge to trail her fingers along the spines, but only just.  The scent of old book mingled with that of papyrus and vellum as she sauntered past thousands of spell books, alchemical grimoires, and ancient scrolls of magical theory.

The special collections room was really more of a vault.  Or a collection of mini-vaults.  It was also both her favorite room and greatest source of anxiety.

The oldest, and most powerful, texts were kept there.  Not quite bad enough for the Restricted Collection, but bleeding too much magic and personality to be kept among the other magic books.

And their containment measures should have been checked weekly.

Library Vignette #2 (2019)

“Trevor!  It’s been a time.  To what do I owe the visit?”

Trevor Miller flashed a smile.  Only Nancy Fernandez would call two weeks “a time” as if years had passed.  He ran a hand over his shaven pate, scattering some drops of rain.

“Every hour away is like a week, Nancy.  How has Paul been?”

“At our age, we’re not allowed to complain.  Every day is a little miracle.”

Trevor chuckled.

If Nancy was a day over 55, he’d be shocked.  Her people often exceeded two centuries before old age took them.  But, she always tried the old lady gambit to play on customer sympathies.

“I heard from a little bird that you found an authentic, first draft, Yao.  If it’s original and really his, I’d be in the market.”

“What are you offering?  No, doesn’t matter.  If I did have possession of such a thing, it would not be for sale.  At any price.”

“You’re sure?  I’d be able to offer six figures right now, seven in a few days.  Possibly a favor or two too.  I could probably get that authorized.”

The diminutive, stout, Latina pretended to consider the offer for a couple seconds.

“No.  Not even for you.  If we even had a Yao, which I’m not saying we do.  Not even for the . . . place you work.  Yes, Paul did some digging, he still has connections and contacts.  We know who you work for, Trevor.”

Trevor paused, reassessing.

“C’mon, Nancy.  If you know that, then you know the Chief’s been looking for years.  She’ll send someone else.  It could get nasty.  You know I’m warning, for your safety, not threatening.”

Library Vignette #1 (2019)

“Mr. Jonson?  Hildegard Blair, assistant to the Chief Librarian.  We spoke briefly when Librarian Liu interviewed you.”

Hildegard leaned back in her chair, surveying the young man across the broad plain of her desk.  Around the buttes and plateaus of papers and ledgers, she saw an unremarkable man, in appearance.  But, there was something about him.  Liu was right.

“Librarian Liu and I agreed that you are a good fit for the position he has open.  So, welcome to the Library and congratulations.”

She stood and extended her hand.

Pale, slender fingers wrapped around hers in a mediocre shake.

“Thank you, Master Blair!”

“Librarian Blair, please.  We have no masters here.”

The young man, John Milton Jonson, she remembered, nodded and paused, like he was filing information away.  Like he was actually listening and remembering.

It was vaguely disturbing.

“You’ll be in the Mundane Collection, under Librarian Liu.  Those are the safest of our texts.  Nothing magic or dangerous.  Most new trainees start there.  I’ll take you over, after we get your room squared away.  There is a map of the mansion in your room, with the public areas and dining room marked.  The doors to the Mundane Collection and Visitor Hall will work for you, but not the other collections.  Any questions?”

She glanced out a window, noting the early buds on the trees.

“No, I don’t think so, yet.”

“You might want to get an extra layer.  The Mundane Collection’s in late winter, I believe, right now.  Winter lasts a couple months longer there.  It can be a bit drafty.”

General Vignette #3 (2019)

Greywood Institute

It felt like it should be dark, near midnight.

With a storm raging and lightning flashing in the sky, punctuated by the rolling clash of thunder.

But, it wasn’t.

Nor was it a lab in the tallest tower of a gothic castle.

No.

It was a clean lab in the heart of the Greywood Institute, in North America.

Alex McGuire felt that moment deserved some drama.  The greatest experiment and discovery in magical history deserved recognition.  Some pomp.  Some notice.

Not hidden in a secret lab.

He heaved a sigh

C’est la vie.

Time to get started and make history.

“Aimée, Wil, complete the circle runes.  Then positions one and three.”

He nodded in satisfaction as two assistant broke from their huddle to follow his direction.

“Valentyna, the volunteers.  Then position four.”

As his assistant led in half a dozen people, Alex turned to the rest.

“Miroslav, two.  Nanna, five.”

Alex stood in the center of the activity, ignoring the quiet economical moved.  He felt around, feeling for the well of magic the Institute sat upon.  Greywood had been built on the site for exactly that reason.  He tapped the well, filling and exceeding his own reserves.

The five aides reached their positions just as Alex felt the wave of power wash over him.  The volunteers had spilled blood.  The raw power available was heady, but decades of practice kept Alex in control, riding the ebb and flow of the waves.

In seconds, his assistants started a low chant, repetition of the same six syllables.  The sound helped Alex focus, to channel and guide the incredible amount of power at his fingertips.

He first sent a narrow stream into the circles and runes that surrounded the focal point.  Protection and containment flared bright for those with the ability to see.

That was the easy part.

The second element would require the lion’s share of the power, and the finesse of a delicate touch to shape a complex network.

Alex allowed the chant to fade from his consciousness.  It would still help the others focus, but now he needed to sink deeper than the repetitive sound would go.

He let the monumental energy build and infuse his being.  The euphoric state could only be maintained for a limited time before the power began to rip its vessel, his body, apart.

Years of preparation had gone into the spell, Alex reminded himself.  He would not let it crash by rushing, nor by waiting too long.

In a forced calm, the sorcerer began mentally drawing lines of energy into shapes.  This part, he had spent seven months rehearsing and refining.  For the last two months, he had even worked them in his dreams.  Drove everyone on the team nuts.

Two hours later, the final piece was in place.

Alex siphoned off a trickle of energy to revive his flagging assistants.  Then he opened the metaphysical flood gates into a channel, funneling power into his construct.

As the last drop left his body, he brought himself back to awareness of his surroundings.

The chanting had fallen silent.

In the exact center of the circle, a blue oval shimmered.  It was suspended a couple inches off the floor, like a mirror hung in midair.  Every couple seconds, a pulse rippled the surface.

The experiment seemed to be a success.