I hadn’t realized how late it was until we finally stepped out the door of the library to see Kinder. The moon was already high in the sky and my phone was now claiming it was Wednesday. Amber seemed to be frozen in the doorway of the library. I stepped around her into the empty parking lot.
“How is it so late already?” she asked, staring at her phone like it was lying to her.
“Fae magic does stuff like this,” I said, syncing my watch to the new time. “Though I wish you’d mentioned you were using it, Kel.”
“You asked me to unravel four different glamours, Rachael,” Kelcie said, tugging her coat around her arm cast. “And check for three more. What did you think I’d use?”
I grunted at her non-committally.
“Besides, I don’t think we lost that much time,” she said, glancing at her watch, “That still took us a few hours.”
“Should we wait until morning to talk to Kinder?” Amber asked nervously.
“And waste more time?” I said.
“Rachael is right,” Mark said, stepping out into the night sky. “We need to talk to him sooner rather than later.”
“But it’s 2 AM,” Amber whined, holding her phone out. “And I took a bus here!”
“That is unfortunate,” Mark said, “but he’ll understand. Come on, I’ll drive you.”
We all filed into two cars, me riding with Mark and Amber and the other librarians in Jeff’s car. Amber tried to give me the front seat but I pushed her into it, settling into the backseat myself.
“No summonings in my backseat,” Mark said threateningly.
“Like that’s ever been a good idea,” I said, staring up at the night sky while he drove. It was a clear night. The stars were out, though with the moon it was hard to see more than the brightest constellations. That was probably a bad sign, but the moon was still only a waxing gibbous. That meant we would have at least a few days before anything major went down.
“Is Kinder going to be mad at us?” Amber asked after several minutes of silence.
“Probably,” I said, my words overlapping with Mark’s.
“No,” he said. He scowled at me in the rearview mirror. “We couldn’t have planned for this, Rachael.”
“Sure we could have,” I said.
“Not this argument again,” Mark said, “We tried the stupid cameras, they kept breaking, remember?”
“There are other options,” I said, “But you guys seem to have a different opinion than I do about letting the general public inside.”
“We’re a library,” Mark said, reciting lines we’d gone over a million times. “What do you propose, we close the doors and tell people we’re a private collection?”
“Why don’t you?” Amber asked quietly.
“Because we’re a library,” I said, startling Mark by stealing his lines. “We’re here to serve the public, and to spread a joy of reading to the next generation. To create a community of readers and empower individuals with free access to the universe of ideas. To teach and inspire, as it were.”
I could see Mark beaming in his reflection off the front windshield. I bitterly added, “And also to protect the people from mankind’s dark past.”
He almost laughed at that. I gave him a wry smile.
“But why is that our job?” Amber asked. “That wasn’t part of my University program, I wasn’t that bad of a student.”
“Told you we should’ve hired someone local,” I said to Mark. He ignored me.
“It used to be, Amber,” he explained. “Didn’t you ever think the criteria for this job was a little high? How many other professions have a Master’s degree devoted to the field just for an entry level job?”
“I… Well… it’s not like it’s a Ph.D. or anything…” she muttered.
“Exactly,” Mark said. “You’d be well on your path to being a doctor or lawyer. Stocking books seems a little too easy for that level of education, don’t you think?”
“So why didn’t they teach us any of this?” she complained. “I didn’t exactly write my thesis on wind magic!”
“You want to field this, Rach?” Mark asked.
I snorted, sitting up in the back. “Thought you just finished her initiation, Mark. Shouldn’t you have taught her this?”
“That’s right, I did,” Mark said. “You should know this, Amber. Why are we protecting these books? What’s their source of power?”
“Belief?” she said questioningly, “Like, the more you know and the more people who believe in magic, the stronger it is?”
“Exactly!” Mark crowed, but Amber still looked confused.
“So what happens if we start teaching this to every wannabe librarian?” I prompted. “How many of your classmates are still looking for jobs? How many more dropped out?”
“Oh!” she said, the lightbulb finally going off. “But wouldn’t stronger magic make it easier for us?”
“Easier for the monsters too,” I pointed out. “They get stronger too. The fewer people in the loop, the better.”
“But the Falconers aren’t librarians,” Amber pointed out. “So where do they factor in?”
“Special case,” I said, yawning. Time skips always messed with my sleep schedule. “And one we won’t get to talk about. We’re here.”