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.”

Ashford Vignette #14 (2009)

Ben Henningson looked around the room that would be his for the last year he spent at Ashford.  Honestly, he thought, 2-A was no different from the other rooms, only the layout of the dorm space was altered.  It was the same size with the exact same simple furnishings of his last four rooms.

Then it hit him.

This was his last room and his last year, unless he decided to teach, or spend years doing research.  Neither option appealed.

After this year, it was back to the family compound to be sent wherever they decided he was needed.

Just like generations of Henningsons before.

The irony struck him, standing there.

The family had been bound to Niedrah, an entity of chaos and adaptability, for centuries.  That in itself, he admitted, was ironic.  But, for all their service to Niedrah, the elder Henningsons were amazingly bound to tradition as well.

“Maybe it’s time things were shaken up a bit,” he muttered to himself.

A wave of his hand sent the contents of his pair of bags flying to their places around the small room.  Another absent gesture caused sheets to stretch themselves over the narrow mattress of the bed.

Ben flopped down, hands behind his head, and stared at the ceiling.

He realized that for the last four years he had never consciously thought about what he wanted to do when he left Ashford.  He just accepted that the family would decide the rest of his life, as it had for his parents, and their parents, and his cousins.

That probably explained why his cousin Jace was always so unhappy, borderline resting pissed face.  He’d been a really good illusion artist when he was younger.  But, the family needed someone to oversee its west coast business interests when he graduated, so that’s where Jace went.