“Kelcie, we will not bother the Falconers over this. We can handle this ourselves,” I said firmly.
“You’ve been saying that a lot Rachael, but I’m not sure you’ve quite realized the scope of the problem,” Kelcie said.
“It’s just some missing books, Kel,” I said confidently, striding over to where Karen was sitting, an unused study room. It was a quiet Tuesday afternoon, I was grateful for that much. None of us seemed to quite have our head in the game when it came to keeping up the charade. “We’re librarians, we can find the books without interrupting the Falconer’s retirement.”
“We should at least let Kinder know,” she said, trying to keep up with me. “He’d-”
“He’d be obligated to let the Falconer’s know,” I finished for her. “No, we can handle this. Come with me.”
She grumbled but followed me anyways as we approached the slight woman. Karen wore thick, black glasses and her short hair was dyed a vivid pink. The kids at the library all loved her, and she’d let them picking the colour of her hair as a prize for our March break read-a-thon. She was also our specialist on the creatures of nature.
“Rachael!” she said when I came close, her voice a mixture of panic and fear. “I’m so sorry, I can’t believe that I fell for that trick! I totally understand if you want to fire me.”
“If I fire you, I need to get a whole new order,” I sighed. “They managed to hit all of the primaries.”
“All of us?” Karen asked, glancing around the room at the other librarians.
I nodded. “I only noticed because one of the books got returned.”
“One of th… How many books are missing, Rachael?” Karen asked, wringing her hands.
“Twenty five.” I’d gone back and counted while I waited for the off-duty librarians to show up. Twenty five out of forty nine books missing before I’d even noticed a problem. I’d had Kelcie check me for glamours too, but unfortunately I didn’t have a convenient excuse for my oversight. Although I had noticed that the orange books were nearly entirely missing as well, in particular Alchemy and Wands. Some of the things in that book could have easily created a compulsion to stay away from that section.
Karen mouthed the number twenty five back to herself. “Did you tell Kinder yet? Or the Falconers?”
“No,” I replied. “And if we’re lucky, we won’t have to.”
“Won’t have to… Rachael, are you crazy?” Karen said, standing up.
“That’s what I said,” Kelcie muttered.
“I think you called me dumb,” I corrected out of habit.
“That too,” Kelcie retorted.
“Either way, I’m not dumb or crazy,” I said, pulling out the paper towel. “Both of you, rack your brain and tell me if this looks familiar.”
I handed the paper towel sketch to Karen and she gave it a quick glance. “What is it?”
“According to Amber, the person she saw was wearing it,” I said.
“And how am I supposed to know what it is?” Karen asked.
“It’s a leaf sigil,” I said, “A leaf that was probably worn by a fae. I’m sure you two must be able to work out something.” Karen gawked at me while Kelcie spluttered. “That… That’s not how it works, Rachael!”
“Why not?” I pressed, putting my hands on my hips. “You are the expert on Fae, aren’t you? It looks like a clan symbol to me.”
“Yes… And yes but…”
“But what?” I demanded.
“But Fae don’t work like that! They change alliances like you and I change clothing! Even if this was a clan symbol, it doesn’t mean it’s a current one!”
“Creatures in the books can’t switch alliances, Kelcie” I said, tapping my foot. “That’s why they’re in the books. To be contained.”
“Well clearly, some of them aren’t contained.” She was getting loud now, and trying to make herself taller. It might have worked if she wasn’t the shortest librarian we had. “And if those ones aren’t contained, they may well have created a new sigil. Or combined two older ones. Or revived one that we already captured. Or even just picked one that belonged to another guy to settle a grudge!”
“You should at least know enough to know if it’s in the book,” I said, miffed.
Kelcie scowled. “Have you memorized every rune and sigil in your specialization?”
“Yes,” I said, begrudgingly. Kelcie scowled more.
“Even then, it’s not the same,” Karen said gently. “There’s at least a dozen creatures that might have used a feather or oak leaf in my field alone. Then you add in Kel’s-”
“So get me a list of possible suspects then,” I said, throwing up my hands. “At least give me something to work on.”
Kelcie sighed. “You know there is another copy of the books…”
“Let’s at least exhaust all possibilities first,” I said firmly. “Maybe get Amber in on this, maybe she can help with the feather.”
“It. Doesn’t. Work. Like. That,” Kelcie growled, but I was already walking away towards the back room. The other librarians turned to look at me as I walked through the lobby. We’d had them separated while we broke the glamours, but now they were all slowly emerging from the rooms. Presumably to discuss how collectively fucked we were.
“Where are you going?” Karen called, following me out of the study room. Kelcie just shot daggers at my back.
“I’m going to get suited up,” I said.
“We don’t even have a target yet!” Karen yelled, stopping in her tracks. I saw Mark walking towards me from the far side of the library, but he would only try to talk me out of this. I added a bit more speed.
“Then find me one!” I yelled. “Because if you don’t, then I need to start looking for one.”
I pushed open the door to the backroom and slipped behind the rows of used books and extra chairs. There, nestled in the back, was a massive wrought iron gateway. The gate was solid, backed with thick, black wood. The iron designs etched out a seven pointed star, with runes and sigils marking every point. I did know what they meant, even without having to look them up. But then, these runes were easy. They were one of the first secrets any of us learned.
I reached into my blouse, pulling out an ornate key on a long chain necklace. The key was black, just like the gate, and held a large, indigo gem in the bow. Even in the dim light, I could see that it swirled with reds and blacks in it’s core. Before Mark or Karen could catch up, I fitted it into the keyhold in the centre of the star, turning it with a satisfying click.
“And if I need to start asking questions,” I whispered, “I still want to be armoured up.”