The Librarian’s Code, Part 16

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“Hurry up you guys!” Sam yelled, but I could barely even see her through the trees now.

“Do you ever think this might be a bad idea?” I asked Syra.

Syra scoffed. “You turning into a pessimist on me?”

“No!” I said, “I’m all down for magic powers. I can’t wait for my turn. But it makes you wonder why this book was sitting in a garage sale.”

“Can we wait for the crisis of conscience until after I get magic powers?” Syra said. The ground was getting steep beneath our feet, I had to grab onto thin saplings to stop from sliding down the loose dirt into her.

“I guess,” I said.

“Besides, where else would you find an ancient book of magic than stuck on some dude’s attic?” Syra asked.

I snorted. “Seems like the sort of thing you’d keep better tabs on.”

“Guys! Hurry up!” I could hear Opi yelling, his voice sounding urgent. Me and Syra shared a glance, breaking into a run. The steep slope forced me into a strange sort of gallop, half falling, half jumping my way down the hill towards the river’s edge and flatter ground.

When I reached the water’s edge I glanced around quickly, looking for where Sam and Opi had gone. I didn’t have to look harder. Sam sat just a few metres away, giggling crazily.

“Can you see them, Mary?” she asked, holding out her arms.

“Uhhh….” I said, looking around. Syra crashed through the bush beside me and I inspected the surrounding, looking for what Sam saw.

She was sitting on the ground just before it turned swampy, surrounded by birch trees and and ferns. The river ran alongside us, a long, wide band of silver and blue. I might have been able to throw a rock to the other shore, but I’d always been bad at gym class. It was certainly pretty, but I didn’t see anything to quite explain the wide grins on her and Opi’s face.

“Uhh,” I gave Syra a look, and she shrugged at me. “I don’t see anything here, Sam.”

“You don’t see the fairies?” Opi asked, pointing out over the water. I frowned, looking out over the water. Something definitely flitted over the water. I recognized the four-winged, long bodies of dragonflies flitting over the ripples. Syra watched them like she was captivated.

“Um… Those are dragonflies,” I said, looking between Opi and Sam.

Sam’s brow furrowed slightly. “Between the dragonflies, Mary.”

I looked out again, squinting into the sparkling sun. Between the glittering light and rippling water, I thought there might be something moving. But every time I tried to follow the shapes, they resolved into a insect.

“I’m not seeing this,” Syra said, echoing my thoughts. “There’s bugs, certainly.”

“You can’t see them?” Opi asked.

“Well, we didn’t just do some secret magic ritual,” I said, rolling my eyes.

“Yeah but-” Opi began, but he was cut off by Sam.

“You’re hiding?” she said, speaking into the air at her shoulder. I stared at the space myself, willing my mind to see what she did. I thought I caught a blur of motion, but I couldn’t quite make it out. Sam asked, “Can you come out?”

Her request didn’t make any fairy magically come into view. She huffed, carefully getting to her feet. She acted like she was in the world’s most awkward costume, stretching out wide to pusher herself up.

“Hang on a moment,” she said, walking to the water’s edge. I watched as Sam began to chase the black-winged damselflies on the river’s edge. Opi went over to help, chasing the frogs instead.

“So, odds that our friends went insane?” I muttered to Syra.

Syra turned to me wide-eyed. “Fairly high.”

“Great,” I whispered, just as Syra added a, “But-”

“But what?” I asked.

“Do you keep catching something just out of the side of your eye?” Syra said. “Something like fairies?”

Syra shrugged. “Or something…”

I frowned. Syra was forever the skeptic, if she thought she saw something… I turned my head away from the water, trying to watch the edge of my vision. I didn’t see anything different, I just felt like a moron.

Sam walked up to us with two cupped hands. “Here, maybe this’ll help,” she said, opening her hands slightly when she arrived.

I peeked inside, only to spot a damselfly inside. It was smaller than the dragonflies, with pure black wings folded up against it’s back and a body so iridescent and green it shone even inside her hands. But it was still a bug.

“Um,” I spluttered, looking at Sam. She’d been one of my oldest friend. I met her in grade 1, just a week after meeting Syra. And I was still clueless on how to tell her that was just an insect.

“That’s not a fairy,” Syra said, clearly not suffering from the same issue.

Sam peeked into her hands. “Oh come on!” she said loudly. “You promised to help. Do you want me to jar you?”

She held her hands out to me again and I reluctantly took another peek. Only this time, where the insect had sat, there was a tiny girl instead. Stuck to her back was the same set of black wings the damselfly had sported, and her emerald green hair was as long as she was, wrapped around a body as tall as a matchstick.

“Oh shit!” I yelped, my words overlapping with Syra’s even less appropriate ones. Sam glared at us both, turning back to the tiny fairy.

“They didn’t mean that,” she said soothingly, giving us a dirty look. “And you two, no swearing.”

“Sam, you are holding a fairy!” I said indignantly. “I think there are more important issues than my language!”

“I disagree,” Sam said. “These are my friends now. We should treat them with respect.”

I sighed, turning back to the fairy that she’d moved to her shoulder. “I’m sorry, Miss.”

Syra echoed my apology, adding in a small curtesy. “But you have to admit, that was a good curse”, she said mischievously. The fairy giggled with a noise that sounded like a glass bell going off.

Suddenly I noticed that the clearing was full of tiny wings and bodies. Where the dragonflies had flown before, I saw there was now a few armoured bodies that flitted between them. They looked like they were playing tag over the water, vanishing out of view at one moment and back in a second later. I was so distracted I barely noticed that the fairy on Sam’s shoulder was talking.

“Oh! I’m sorry Miss,” I said, focusing on the tiny voice amid the buzzing of wings. “I was… distracted.”

The fairy crossed tiny arms across it’s chest with a humph, flying up into my face. “You humans are all the same. We show you something cool and you forget all manners.”

Sam seemed to be barely holding in a laugh behind me and I felt my cheeks blush. “I’m really sorry.”

“She was just telling us her name,” Syra said, coming to my rescue. “Lady Calada Moonglimmer, of the Royal Ebony Jewelwing Legion.”

“Nice to meet you, Lady Calada,” I said, bowing my head slightly. The fairy dipped into a low curtesy, and I could see that despite my earlier assumptions, she was actually clothed beneath the long hair. Her dress was the same colour as her hair, with the tiniest black embroidery I could imagine. She was so precious I felt like a monster just to be in her presence.

“The fairies were telling me about their ball,” Sam said happily. “Before I caught Cala here.”

“Their ball?” Syra asked excitedly.

“Yes!” Cala squeaked, clapping tiny hands. “It will be an amazing feast! And then there will be dancing and celebrating all night long!”

I smiled patiently. “I think my parents might be upset if I don’t come home all night.”

“Oh, it’s not tonight!” Cala said, “It will be in 4 days, starting at sundown. And you’re all invited! Even your knight.” The tiny fairy gestured towards Opi, who was coming over looking dejected. His jeans and hands were covered in mud.

I tried to do the math on the fairy’s invite. Saturday night, it seemed. But I doubted my parents would let me go to a party on a Saturday night, even if it was thrown by fairies and not classmates.

Syra seemed to have a different idea. “We’ll be here!”

“Syra!” I hissed under my breath.

“What?” she asked innocently.

“My parents wouldn’t even let me go to Brooke’s pool party last year!” I said. “How am I supposed to get out for a fairy ball?”

Sam bit her lip. “I don’t think my parents would let me come either.”

“Oh but you must come!” Cala said. “There will be dancing and singing, and humans always bring the best treats!”

“Treats?” Opi asked, entering the conversation confused.

“Yes!” said the fairy, buzzing up in front of him on her black wings. “Like milk, and bread, and sweets!”

That must have been a popular topic. Suddenly other fairies were popping up all around us, adding in their favourite snacks.

“Strawberries!” yelled one with black hair and a yellow spot on her wings.

“And cake!” cried another, dressed in soft greys.

“Whipped cream!”

“Pizza!”

“Twinkies!” one yelled, pulling at my hair.

“Ouch!” I yelled, but two more tugged at my clothes and ear. I started backing away when they started pinching. I didn’t even notice when we’d all started running, racing back up the hill and out of the ravine.

My breath burned in my throat by the time we reached the meadow again. I didn’t dare stop, running with my friends until my legs burned and we collapsed on the sidewalk outside of the park. We sat there, panting for air until Sam met my eye. I smiled at her, and she smiled back. Then Syra chuckled, setting us all off laughing until tears welled in my eyes. I leaned up against Opi as the laughter slowly died off.

“What was that about?” Opi asked, still chuckling.

His words set off Sam and me into another burst of giggles.

“They invited us to a party,” Syra said between laughs.

Opi laughed again, “A party?”

“Yeah,” I said, slowly recovering. “Some ball or something.”

“When?” Opi asked.

“See?” Syra said, giggling more. “Opi wants to go.”

I snorted, trying not to dissolve into more giggling. “No he doesn’t.”

“I didn’t say any of that!” Opi said. “I just want to know when!”

“Saturday!” Syra said. “Help me convince Mary to come.”

“Uhh…” he looked flustered. “What happens at a fairy ball? Do you even want to go, Mary?”

“There’s dancing!” Syra said, nudging me in the ribs.

I went a little red, “Opi doesn’t want to dance with me.”

“Sure I would!” Opi said quickly. I looked at him and he blushed too. “I mean, if you want to.”

“Um…” I stuttered.

“So it’s a date then, right?” Syra said cheerfully, looking between me and Opi.

Before Opi could reply, I pushed myself to my feet, pulling a still giggling Sam up as well. “We’ll see,” I said quickly, mouthing the words Help me to Sam.

“We should go before it gets dark,” Sam said, trying to stifle her smile. “Come on guys.”

We walked back quietly, punctuated by the occasional fit of giggles.

The Librarian’s Code, Part 15

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I steeled myself on the way to the front door. Jokes aside, there was a battle going on out there and I had no idea how well it was going, or any weapons beyond my tiny penknife. Even the cuts on my cheeks had slowed down to a trickle, the blood on my hands too intermingled with Mark’s to risk using it. I rubbed my hands on my jeans again, trying to clean them before I grabbed the doorknob.

The evidence of the battle was apparent as soon as I opened the door. Just a few feet from the door lay one of the downed harpies, its feathers shimmering with a coppery hue in the light of nearby fires. The moment I stepped outside, one of the dark bodies let out a shriek, plummeting out of the sky towards me.

I pulled the door closed as I tucked myself into a roll, landing behind fallen harpy. That was when I noticed didn’t just look metallic. The flesh and blood had been transformed into bronze, its human face frozen mid-scream. I didn’t have long to examine Mark’s handiwork before it’s living sister was striking out at me again. The harpy’s long claws ripped into the statue of its brethren, sending razor-sharp metal feathers to the ground.

I rotated my way around the statue, keeping it between me and the harpy. Around me, I could see the fight illuminated in flashes and bursts of fire. One of them struck close to me, scorching the harpy hassling me. The bird screamed, collapsing to the ground with the smell of burnt feathers and hair. When the fire vanished, Nate was standing where the beast had been moments before.

“Why are you out here?” he asked, staring down the burning bird.

“We need you inside,” I said. With Nate beside me, the fire bursts had stopped. It felt darker than it had when we arrived as well. But perhaps that was because the carefully manicured gardens were much closer than they’d been before. The branches were more wild now, scraping against the sky. “You or Karen.”

“Who’s down?” he asked, kicking a line of fire at the harpy that was starting to rise. He advanced on it aggressively.

“Mark.” I stepped around the harpy statue, brushing against it too closely. The bronze feathers sliced into my burgundy jacket, ripping up the leather. I frowned at the statue.

Nate swore when I mentioned a name, turning my way. “Bad?”

“Would I be here otherwise?” I asked, stooping down to grab one of the fallen bronze feathers. I walked up to the fallen harpy, slicing the feather across the human throat. It parted the flesh easily and Nate looked away as it bled out.

“Christ, Rachael-”

“Just go make sure Mark is fine,” I said, scratching a quick rune into the barely-moving breast of the monster. It looked like a flourished “R”. Nate glanced back at me, scowling.

“Don’t look at me like that,” I said, “You were going to kill it anyways.”

He opened his mouth to protest and I pointed at the door. “Go. Argue with me later.”

He scowled at me, then ran for the door. I looked down at the harpy that seemed caught between life and death. With it as an offering, I could summon something big enough to end this easily. But the battle seemed to be winding down now, at least by the sounds. The other librarian’s would consider it a needless risk. And I had promised to avoid bringing any demons into the mix.

Still, it seemed rude to leave the clean up to Karen and Jeff. I searched the sky but I couldn’t see any more of the birds. Most of the noise seemed to be coming out of the brambled wildwoods that had sprung up from Kinder’s garden. I headed in, ignoring the feathered bodies that were trapped and crushed within the branches.

It was slow going through the brush. The woods were thick, with long, sharp thorns that ripped at my clothes. I was forced to hack at them with the makeshift blade, cursing as it caught on my jeans again.

After five minutes of struggling through the thicket, I had to admit that I wasn’t getting anywhere. I turned around, and my path in had vanished.

“Well fuck,” I muttered. Even the moon had vanished beneath the supernatural forest, the sounds fading away into just those at my feet. Kinder was going to be pissed when he saw what Karen had done to his fruit trees and flowers.

I plunged back into the vines, hoping I was travelling the right way. I thought I was going uphill, at least.

“Karen!” I screamed into the thicket, “Jeff!”

The thorns were going for blood. It only took me a few minutes to figure that out. They buried themselves into my legs, tripping me up, making me question my bearing. One thorn tore across my leg, leaving a bloody scratch from knee to mid calf. A dark curse escaped my lips and a patch of forest three feet wide and ten deep appeared in the forest.

“Of course that’s the wrong way,” I muttered at my cleared path. Already I could see the trees trying to close in on itself, trying to fill in that void. I raced down the path quickly, hoping I was at least heading closer to the house. By the time I reached the end, I’d already lost where I started.

“I get it!” I yelled at nothing in particular. “You’re a spooky, scary forest! Now will you let me out?”

The forest did not seem to be listening. That was never a good sign. I sighed, gripping the feather hard enough to cut open my hand. Fresh blood welled up in my palm.

“Sorry Mark,” I said. Between me and the harpy I’d left bleeding, he shouldn’t get any feedback. I hoped, anyways. When I’d left, Mark didn’t have a whole lot of blood to spare. But I wasn’t sure how else to get out of this forest. Hopefully, one near-dead harpy would be enough.

Before the first words could escape my lips, a section of woods imploded nearby. I felt the moisture suck out of the air around me and a man appeared beside me. I could barely make him out in the gloom, but I recognized that magical signature.

“Jeff!” I said gratefully, letting the spell shrivel like the plant matter he’d burst from. He turned my way, dried twigs snapping in his path.

“Rachael!” he said with surprise. “What are you doing here?”

“I thought I’d come help,” I replied, “only to get trapped in Karen’s infernal forest. How the hell do you get any fighting done in this?”

I heard him more than I saw him come towards me. “I’m at my limit too. I haven’t seen anything but shadows in here.”

“Fuck,” I said, “Not even Karen?”

I picked out his outline, shaking his head. “I was hoping to get her to Mark.”

“Well Nate’s on it now,” I said. “Just need to worry about ourselves.”

“Ourselves?”

“Do you know which way is out?” I asked. He froze as if considering the predicament for the first time.

“Fuck,” he said finally.

“Yeah,” I agreed, “Fuck.”

“I could port into the canopy?” he said questioningly.

I grabbed at his shirt before he could. “Not unless you want to lose me.”

I heard Jeff sigh. “So what do you propose? Demons?”

I looked at the blood dripping from my hand. Mostly my own, but mingled with the harpy and Mark’s by now. I took a deep breath, clearing my thoughts.

“Rachael?” Jeff said, and I held up a finger to shush him, trying to sense the connection back to the house, between the blood I had spilled and the blood in my hands. I could sense the harpy too, with my mark on its breast and its blood neath my nails. It was like tiny threads of shadow in a forest that threatened to rip them apart, but they were there. I pointed a path towards the house.

“That way,” I said, sounding confident. “Can you make a path?”

“I can try,” Jeff said. He sounded exhausted. I didn’t blame him. I’d only fought two harpies and I was already a mess.

“Go slowly,” I cautioned. “The forest is still growing.”

“I guess Karen’s still fighting?” he asked as several trees before us exploded into frozen shards.

I pursed my lips as we walked, still pointing the way home. “Maybe.”

“Maybe?” he asked, still clearing the path.

“If she’s still in control, why is the forest fighting us?” I asked.

“Maybe she’s distracted?” Jeff said hopefully.

I shook my head. “You were jumping around, did you hear any fighting?”

Jeff didn’t respond. A larger swatch of forest exploded, and I could see the house lights beyond the clearing.

“I don’t hear anything either,” I said, walking quickly out of the shadows. “Not even the harpies.”

“Do you think she’s still in there?” Jeff asked as we stood on the driveway. “She could be hurt, or dying.”

I looked back on the forest now that we were in relative safety. “Maybe,” I said. “If she was hurt, this might be her cocoon while she heals.”

“Might?” Jeff asked. I had to remind myself he was still fairly new. Not as new as Amber, but he hadn’t been around during the Great Giant War, when we’d all thought Karen was dead. She’d come back a day later, hatching out of a tree just in time to save my ass. It’d been years before she let me live down ‘The look on my face when she skewered that punk’. In her words.

“If it is,” I said, “We probably won’t find her tonight. Let’s get some sleep.”

Jeff looked skeptical but let me pull him into the house. I just hoped I was right.

The Librarian’s Code, Part 14

“So are we just going to leave the harpy in the bedroom?” Kelcie asked me in the foyer. I stared at the angry, screaming bird that glared at us from behind the threshold of the door.

“Do you have a better idea?” I asked. My hands were both covered in drying blood now. I considered them for a moment before rubbing them onto my jeans. It didn’t seem to help much.

“We could just kill it,” Kelcie suggested, flexing the hand on her unbroken arm. A breeze rippled through her hair, though I wasn’t sure if it came from her or the torn out window behind the harpy.

“The circle will block any direct magic,” I said. “I’m more worried about the rune behind it.”

Kelcie frowned. “I activated it.”

“With fae magic,” I said. I could feel that rune throbbing like a sore spot in my shield. It pulsed with a bright yellow glow in my defenses, a beacon to anything trying to break in. If it was this obvious to me, how obvious would it be to the enemy?

The front door banged open and I could hear Jeff shouting out to us. Kelcie blinked away nearly immediately, and her voice trickled up from the floor below me. I rolled my eyes at the angry harpy. “She’s such a show off.”

The harpy responded by redoubling its attacks on the barrier. I sighed, stepping my way past his circle, taking great care not to step on the bloody runes on the floor. “Nobody appreciates my handiwork,” I grumbled.

When I was halfway down the stairs, I caught sight of Jeff. He was covered in mud and dark stains all over. His brown hair was soaked, hanging in limp strands against his face. He turned into the living room and I sucked in my breath in a sharp hiss. His deep blue dress shirt was torn down the back in 3 long stripes, the fabric covered in an unmistakable red.

He turned quickly at the noise. “It’s not mine,” he said quickly, before catching sight of my face and fumbling on his words.

“Good,” I said with relief, reaching the main floor before answering the question on his face. “It’s all mine.”

Jeff shuddered a bit as I walked towards the living room. I grinned at his discomfort until I saw the scene in the living room.

“Hey Rach,” Mark said weakly. Kinder held a towel that might have been blue but was now turning a reddish-brown to his right shoulder. His arm was at an odd angle and covered in smaller lacerations that Kelcie was trying to fuss over with one hand.

“Well you got yourself into a mess,” I said, dropping to my knees in front of him, trying to take the towel away from Kelcie.

“I got this.” She glowered at me, jerking her chin behind me. “Go clean up your face.”

I glanced behind me to where Amber stood, holding a handful of clean towel as white as her face. I looked away quickly.

“Actually,” I whispered, “you should talk to her. She’d probably faint if she saw me.”

Kelcie took one look at the pale, sweaty girl, and another at my bloody smile and relinquished the towel to my care.

“So what’d you do, Mark?” I asked, trying to keep the mood light. He smiled at me.

“Some harpy thought I’d make a good tree decoration,” he said wincing a little as I applied pressure to his arm. “Dropped me into one.”

“Ouch,” I said mildly. “I hope you proved them right.”

“I thought I did a fine job,” Mark said. “Karen disagreed. Something about me messing up her garden.”

“It was my garden,” Kinder said grumpily. “You damn kids need to get off my lawn.”

“Retirement sounds boring anyways,” I said. I noticed Jeff had vanished from the doorway. Hopefully that meant he’d gone to attract the attention of one of our healers.

“It was boring,” Kinder said. “Boring and quiet and for once, peaceful.”

“I never liked fae either,” I said, pointing the blame in the obvious direction.

“Is that what tagged you?” Mark asked. I smiled, feeling the clotted blood on my cheeks crack and split.

“No, this was all our team,” I said cheekily. “Our little wind mage packs a punch.”

“I’ll have to teach her to aim,” Mark whispered, glancing over my shoulder to where Kelcie had pushed Amber into a chair. The girl had her head between her knees now. I turned back to the bleeding on his arm that had thankfully slowed. The wounds on his shoulder didn’t seem to be slowing fast enough though.

“Hopefully you get the chance,” I muttered. Kinder shot me a dirty look and I hastily added, “Before we see more action, that is.”

Mark snorted quietly and Kinder jerked his head towards the front door. “Go see what’s keeping them, Rachael.”

I glanced towards the window behind him, in time to see a burst of fire light up the horizon.

“I might need some back up if I’m going out there,” I said, trying hard not to smile.

“No,” Kinder said firmly.

“Come on, you don’t expect me to go out there defenseless?” I said, already looking around for a clear enough patch of floor.

“Absolutely not,” he repeated.

I frowned, my hands covered in blood yet again. “Just a little one?”

“Rachael, if you don’t stop trying to summon demons in my living room, I’m going to smack you,” Kinder said angrily.

I sighed angrily and he jerked his head towards the front door. “Just go yell at them out the front door.”

I got up, grumbling. “You summon one little demon at the office Christmas party…”

The Librarian’s Code, Part 13

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“So what’s new, Opi?” I asked, leaning close over the lines on the floor. “Any new magic powers? Can you see the leylines?”

Opi blinked, looking around the room. “Um… I think so?”

“What?!” Sam cried, looking around desperately. “I did this initiation a whole twenty four hours ago and I haven’t seen anything! What are they supposed to look like?”

“Well, look,” Opi said, pointing at a seemingly random spot of the ground. “Doesn’t that look like something?”

Sam stared at the ground where he pointed. “It looks like a shoe scuff, Opi.”

“What?” he replied. “No, beneath the shoe scuff. You don’t see that copper line?”

“No,” Sam said with a huff.

Opi gave her a weird look, then got onto his knees, brushing away the dirt that had accumulated on the rough wood floor. “Right here?” he asked, “It looks like someone spilled nail polish?”

“Looks like you’re crazy,” Sam said.

Opi frowned. “Mary, do the initiation, tell me I’m not losing it.”

I hesitated, looking at the bowl of water that sat beside me. Opi had collected way more dew than I had. Or maybe it had increased when it froze and unfroze. Everything was all set up and waiting. And yet…

“I promised Rou she could go next,” I said grudgingly. “Maybe Syra-”

Syra put up her hands. “I have to live with Rou. Let’s just wait for her.”

“Seriously, you can’t see this?” Opi said, gesturing at the ground to Sam.

“No!” she said. “Looks like you’re just making up shit.”

“Guys!” I interrupted. “Let’s go for a walk. Maybe we’ll find something clearer?”

The two grudgingly agreed and we headed out into the sunshine. Sam lived near a ravine, which we all agreed would be the most likely place to spot anything abnormal. Or at least, Sam thought that seemed likely. Opi was less convinced, claiming his leyline was pointing away from the ravine and towards downtown.

“Yeah, but you’ve already seen a leyline,” I said diplomatically. “We’re trying to find one for Sam now.” Plus the ravine was just a nicer walk, but I didn’t need to add that part. I didn’t need to see the same buildings I walked past twice a day.

Sam and Opi walked ahead, still arguing about what seemed like the most likely place to spot a ley line as Syra fell into step beside me.

“I’m still mad at you,” I grumped.

Syra’s smile fell. “For what?”

“You all left without me!”

Syra pouted. “Sorry. I was hoping if you couldn’t find us, you’d walk with Opi.”

“Well if you’d told me, I might have actually waited by his locker instead of the other end of the school.”

Syra let out a nervous giggle. “Oops.”

“Yeah oops,” I said, shoving her playfully with my shoulder.

She pushed back against me. “I guess that backfired.”

“You guys suck,” I said, but there was no bite in my words.

She smiled broadly at me. “So are you going to show me this sexy look?”

“No!” I said, a little too loudly. Opi and Sam looked back at us and I blushed.

Syra smiled broadly at me. “Lemme make it up to you,” she whispered into my ear, pushing me forward into them.

“Sam, come here,” she said in her sing-song voice. “I want to talk to you.”

Sam gave me a confused look as she slowed down, waiting for for Syra to catch up. I didn’t meet her eye as I hurried past her towards Opi’s side. Three months ago, I’d had Sam and Syra over for a sleepover. During typical girl talk, Sam had admitted to having a crush on one of the boys in our math class. And Syra had never been shy about talking about how cute the lead singer in her j-rock band was, though I always thought “Hyde” sounded like a weird name.

They’d pestered me about who I thought was cute, but I never liked crushing on some guy I’d never meet, let alone talk to. Beneath all the pressure, I’d admitted to having a small crush on Opi. Neither of them had let me live it down since, and Syra was particularly bad about trying to set us up. He certainly wasn’t as conventionally attractive as Meck from math class or Syra’s j-rocker But looking at his shaggy black hair and blue eyes, I didn’t think he was a terrible choice either.

“What was all that about?” Opi asked when I was alongside him.

“Nothing,” I said, my face burning red. “I think she just wanted to ask her about ley lines.”

“Oh,” he said, glancing back. “I wonder why she wanted Sam. She still hasn’t seen anything.”

“Did you really see one back there?” I asked shyly.

“Definitely,” he said. “It was clear as day outside of the clubhouse.”

“What did it look like?” I asked.

“Oh… Um, you know in sci-fi movies how there’s always those holograms?” Opi started. I nodded my head and he went on. “Okay, imagine something like that, where it’s sort of see-through and you can see what’s behind it. But also thatit’s what’s behind and everything else in front of it is see-through. Does that make any sense?”

“Not really,” I said honestly. “Does it like, tint things? You said it was coppery.”

“It was!” he said. “But I guess it was more orange when I got outside? I dunno.”

“Like the book cover?” I asked on a guess.

“Yeah, like that!” he said. “I thought I saw another one back there, but Sam didn’t see that one either.”

“Could it be because your aura was different?” I said, “Yours was definitely closer to orange than hers was.”

“Was it?” he said, pondering as we entered the grassy field of the ravine. “I thought hers was gold.”

“I dunno, it was more sunny than yours.” I plucked a tall blade of grass off the side of the path as we walked. “She glowed. You kinda… rippled. Like someone was trying to wrap you in ribbons of cellophane but it kept floating away.”

“That!” Opi said, pointing at me. “That’s what the ley lines looked like.”

“Like cellophane on the ground?” I asked.

“No, they aren’t really on the ground,” he said. “They’re inside the ground, only I can still see them, or something.”

“So what I’m gathering is that magic makes no sense, got it.” I said with a giggle.

“Seems that way,” Opi said, smiling.

“What about in here, have you seen anything?” I said, spreading my arms to gesture at the grassy field we were in. Milkweed pods had taken over the edge of the path. Most of them were still green and wet but a couple had gone grey, spilling floating seeds into the sky. When Sam and I were in Girl Guides, we’d learned how to identify the pods and how they were common food for monarch caterpillars. Then we’d collected some of the empty grey pods to turn into mice with googly eyes and pink felt and yarn.

Opi looked around curiously. “Um…”

“Opi, do you see it?!” Sam yelled behind us. I looked back to see her waving her arms about wildly.

“See what?” he yelled.

Sam pointed at the ground where it started to slope downwards. Opi and I both turned as Sam ran up to us, Syra following behind.

“That, you think?” Opi asked, “I guess it’s a bit sparkly. But it’s blue?”

“Just a bit, eh?” Sam said, elbowing him in the ribs. “Come on, let’s follow it.”

Sam took off running through the grass, heading towards the treeline. Opi shrugged and took off after her just as Syra caught up to me.

“So, do you see anything?” she asked, slowing down beside me. We stared after where the two of them had run off.

“Not even a little,” I admitted.

The Librarian’s Code, Part 12

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“What on earth did you summon off her?” Kelcie whispered at me fiercely. She pointed at the bloody handprint on Amber’s jacket as we walked down the hallway.

“Nothing,” I replied, but Kelcie was still glowering at me viciously.

“Rachael!” she hissed, trying to get in my way. “You can’t just summon creatures on a whim!”

“And I didn’t,” I whispered, pressing a hand to my cheek trying to stop it from dripping blood to the carpet.

She scowled more as we entered the closest room. “Then what the hell was that?”

“I imagine it was demonic destruction,” a deep voice said from the living room. Mr. Kinder looked over from the front window, where he was watching the fight. I nodded as Amber stared at me questioningly.

“Your arcane is improving,” he said, handing me a white handkerchief as the blood dripped into my mouth.

I pressed the cloth to my cheek gratefully. “Thanks.”

“But you cut your face?” she fussed. “For that?”

“Friendly fire,” I said, going over to the window and pushing aside the curtains. On the wall behind the sapphire brocade fabric, there was a small etched symbol. I touched it lightly with one bloody finger and it flared into life, shining a deep, purpley-blue.

“Is that necessary, Rachael?” Kinder asked. His frown creased wrinkles into his face as I let the curtains drop. He was wearing a heavy flannel robe and I hoped there was also some clothes underneath it.

“Your entire staff shows up at 2 AM with a swarm of harpies in tow and you wonder if the wards are necessary?” I asked, disgruntled.

Kinder sighed heavily. “Do what you must.”

“Fill him in, Kelcie,” I said, wandering off through the house. She glowered at me and I smiled back at her with blood covered teeth.

In a way, Amber had done me a favour with her accidental slash. The cut had been shallow enough that it barely stung when I flexed my jaw, investigating the wound with my tongue. And yet, it bled freely enough that I didn’t have to worry about a medium for my magic. I walked through the dining room, activating the runes on each window. They glowed as I touched them, drinking in the offered blood hungrily.

I slipped into the kitchen next. I could see the ugly birds circling the house but I didn’t need Kinder’s help in finding the runes. I’d etched them into his walls myself, a decade ago. When he announced he was going into semi-retirement several years ago, I’d refreshed the runes again, as well as everyone else on the staff. Well, almost everyone. I hadn’t gotten around to sealing Amber’s house yet.

I pursed my lips, trying to remember if Amber lived alone. She almost certainly hadn’t been on the team long enough to have made enemies. But with an outright harpy attack on a residential home, it was clear that the kiddy gloves were coming up. Someone out there meant business. I just wished I’d spent enough time studying the fae to guess what that business was.

A harpy slammed into the window as I finished up with the main floor, startling me. They were wising up to where we’d gone. I’d have thought they’d be more distracted with the fighters outside. I rushed past the massive fish tank beside the stairwell. All of the fish seemed to be asleep at the late hour. All except for the massive, spotted algae-eater, hiding under the log near the bottom of the tank. His freckled and whiskered face stared out at me as I hurried up the steps to the bedrooms.

Kinder had way too many bedrooms for a single man. I swore as I ran out of the first of them, flipping on the light in the second room. I was greeted by an explosion of glass and feathers as a harpy burst through the window. It screamed insults at me as I threw the door shut again. I heard it hit the wood with talons as long as a hatchet.

I took a deep breath, leaning my weight against the door and considering my options. Most of our staff had cross-disciplines in their fields. Mark threw fire almost as well as Nate did. Better, in some situations. Karen could have probably represented any of the primaries equally well. But I had dedicated myself almost exclusively to the indigo field, as much because no one else wanted it as anything else.

The reason no one wanted to cross train in my field was simple.

Demons required a sacrifice.

The harpy slammed against the door again, reminding me of my current issue. With no line of sight, my options were slim. I hadn’t bothered with the flashy skills of the fae discipline, there were no shadows to claim it, and it was preventing my access to my protective wards. The stupid harpy were practically wind demons yet here I was in a stand-off.

I winced as a taloned foot stabbed through the door above me. A very unbalanced stand-off.

And yet…

There was a wall socket beside me. With much luck, it connected to the wiring within the bedroom. Or at least that was my reasoning as I punched through the drywall beside it, grabbing onto the plastic coated wiring with the blood-soaked hanky.

I could see the shape I needed in my head. The perfect circle of metal and wire surrounding the room and the angry harpy. The wiring bent to my will, ripping itself out of the walls to encircle the beast. I willed the copper into the floorboards, etching beneath the doorframe. Based on the steady attacks on the door, I suspected the bird hadn’t even noticed the danger it was in yet.

The others might laugh that I knew the entire language by heart. But there was hardly a chance now to look up the rune in a book. I smeared a finger across a bloody cheek, writing three runes in red in front of the door.

Then I drew my pen knife out of my pocket again, testing the blade against my finger. I drew myself to a shaky stand in front of the shattering door, drawing the knife along my undamaged cheek to match the other. Three drops of blood fell onto the copper binding circle just as the harpy smashed the door into splinters.

The bird slammed into the magical barrier, inches from my face. It screeched obscenities at me, but the copper and blood barrier held firm, trapping it inside.

“Rachael!” I heard Kelcie scream from the living room. Her feet pounded on the staircase.

“I’m fine,” I yelled, trying to convince myself of the same thing. Kelcie froze at the top of the steps, staring at the mangled door and wall. Or maybe at the angry, raging monster. I couldn’t be sure anymore.

“What did you do?” she asked.

“Demonology follows certain laws,” I said, sounding calmer than I felt. I pointed at the torn out window behind the raging harpy. “Do you think you can activate that rune?”

“What, like, just walk through the angry harpy?” Kelcie snapped.

“Or you could teleport,” I said. “But don’t let me stop you from just walking through.”

I hurried into the rest of the bedrooms to activate the runes on their windows as Kelcie blinked away. Luckily the rest of the monsters stayed outside as we worked.

We left the rune by the front door for last, to give the others somewhere to run.

The Librarian’s Code, Part 11

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The car pulled up along the long gravel driveway into Kinder’s house. It was tucked away from the highway, hidden behind rows of carefully manicured gardens and fruit trees. Our headlights illuminated the building, casting shadows across the front. Amber looked nervous, but I’d long ago learned not to fear the shadows.

“Guess we’re the first ones here,” Amber said as she got out.

I pursed my lips, looking around and up at the home. “Who was driving the other car?”

“Jeff,” Mark said, his voice echoing the worry I felt.

“They probably just took another route,” Amber said, sounding unconcerned.

“Maybe,” I said. I’d asked Jeff to carpool with me last year, when we’d shared a shift in the morning. By the end of the first ride, I felt like I had aged ten years. I was certain his driving was partly to blame for the white streak that was forming on my hairline. But I suppose it was always possible he’d fixed his lead foot in the past year.

The squealing of tires and the crunch of gravel a moment later proved that Jeff had not cured his need for speed just yet. I hurried out of the driveway as the lights rushed over me, far too fast to be safe.

Nate spilled out of the backseat almost before the car had stopped moving, rolling into a crouch. I was about to yell at him, but when he came up I noticed one fist glowing and flickering with a red flame, his eyes tracing the black sky.

“Shit,” I said, staring up as well. I couldn’t see anything. But then, I hadn’t noticed anything on the way over either. “What am I looking for?”

“Harpies,” he replied without looking at me.

I frowned, squinting at the sky. “Are you sure?”

“Pretty damn sure,” Kelcie said, running out of the parked car towards the door, her half on coat flapping uselessly against her cast. “They started chasing us as soon as you guys left the parking lot.”

“Did we lose them?” Jeff asked as he got out of the car. As if responding to his question, I heard a roar of caws approaching. The sound got louder as they flew over the trees, and now I could see their dark wings, the moon shining off bare breasts and long hair. Harpies were one of the nastier types of wind spirits, prone to snatching and ripping at whatever they could get in their talons. They were what a pack of coyotes would be if the could fly and curse.

I dropped into a crouch myself, reaching for a small swiss army knife I kept in my pocket, but Mark grabbed the back of my coat.

“Go, Rachael,” he said, pushing me towards the door. “Get Kelcie and Amber inside.”

“So now I’m on guard duty?” I scowled at him. Behind us, Nate launched a fireball into the flock, scattering and illuminating the birds.

Mark cursed, whipping around on the birds. He imitated Nate’s spell, summoning fire around his fist. “Kelcie can’t fight with a broken arm,” he hissed.

“Excuse me?” Kelcie said, her hair slowly rising in a torrent around her. The dark birds were regrouping, forming back into a dark swarm.

Mark launched a small spark of fire into the harpies. It flew into their midst like a bullet, exploding with a bang on impact. “Then both of you guard her!” he growled. “But we can’t lose more time or to trip over summons.”

Kelcie looked ready to argue but I caught sight of Amber where she was cowering behind one of the cars. I grabbed Kelcie, pushing her to the door.

“Go wake up Kinder,” I said as I ran over to Amber. Amber was peeking out around the car, one hand at her side. Even in the dim light I could see she was attempting to gather the winds around her, but her soft breeze was unlikely to scare any harpies.

“How you doing?” I whispered as I knelt beside her. I was trying not to startle her but I felt the wind slash across my cheek all the same, and the warm sensation as blood trickled down my cheek.

“Oh my god, no,” Amber spluttered, turning away from the fight to see her damage. “I thought you were a-”

“Don’t worry about them.” I plastered a fake smile on my face, trying to look as reassuring as possible as I wiped my hand against my cheek. The dark shapes were flying overhead now. I hissed, “We’re getting out of here.”

“But the harpies-” she whispered.

“We got this,” I said. Glancing over the car, I could see that was nearly true. Aside from Nate and Mark tossing fireballs, Jeff had ripped the water out of one of the garden beds, transforming it into ice needles he was picking off the harpies with. I couldn’t see Karen, but in my experience, that was when she was scariest. Amber still looked like a scared sparrow though, and I could see why Mark had directed me to her. “Those guys don’t need our help.”

Amber nodded at me, lips sealed like she didn’t trust herself to speak. A bead of blood was trickling down my chin, I caught it on my clean hand before it could fall.

“Do you see Kelcie over there?” I said, pointing out where she stood pounding on the door. Amber nodded again so I continued. “On one, we’re going to run to her. You ready?”

I didn’t wait for her response, watching the nasty bird approach. “Three.”

I shifted Amber to be between me and Kelcie. “Two.”

“One.” I pushed at her, leaving a bloody handprint on her back. The girl took off running, with me a step behind. One lone harpy dove down alongside the house, aiming at her back. I flicked the blood droplet at it, and the shadows seemed to reach off the building, enveloping the harpy and dragging it back into the darkness. Amber didn’t notice a thing as Kelcie ushered her into the building. Kelcie, on the other hand, scowled at the bloody mark.

I gave her a toothy grin as I slipped over the threshold.

The Librarian’s Code, Part 10

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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.”

The Librarian’s Code, Part 9.5

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The sun was still high in the when Gale packed in his model airplane.

“Aww, heading out already?” his friend Perry teased, but Gale just nodded.

“Yeah, gotta be home by sundown or the Missus gets uppity,” he said good-naturedly. Perry laughed as he loaded his plane into the backseat and settled behind the drivers seat that was parked in the grassy field.

It was a lie, of course. There was no lady awaiting him back home. But ever since retiring, Gale had found nightfall to be a little more ominous. The shadows were a little longer than they ought to be, and the stars didn’t seem to illuminate the world quite as clearly. Best to be home, behind locked doors and thresholds when the sun went down.

The sun hadn’t set by the time Gale pulled into the driveway, but he could tell something was off anyway. He could feel it in his bones, even though the exterior looked exactly the way it had when he left that morning. It was a pleasant house on a small cul-de-sac, with pale lavender gabling over clean white trim. A small herb garden flourished behind white picket fencing, something Gale had wanted his whole life but never quite had the energy to focus on. And yet, the whole house gave off the type of negative vibe that Gale had learned not to ignore.

He stared at the house for what felt like an eternity. His smartphone sat in the cupholder beside him, almost beckoning him to pay attention. Fingers groped over it, sizing it up, before passing by, reaching under the passenger seat and pulling out a small box.

Gale opened the box, pulling out a small gun. The shape wasn’t what he was used to, the grip not what he wanted. But while one could hide a gun in the car, his preferred weapon was a little more conspicuous. He sighed, loading in a few bullets. Guns were mostly only useful against humans. If he was lucky, that’s what he was dealing with.

The front door was still locked. That was probably a good sign, Gale figured, but plenty of things didn’t need to unlock a door to get inside. He pushed the door open carefully, trying not to let it squeak as he slipped past the threshold.

The interior of the house definitely did not look as idyllic as the exterior. Mud was tracked across the white quartz floors and every painting had been knocked askew or clear off the wall. With a careful, practiced step he followed the path of mud through the house, gun held firmly in his hand.

A banging from the kitchen attracted his attention. He paused outside the doorway, gathering up a deep breath before he stepped through the door, aiming his gun firmly into the centre of mass.

“Screeee!!”

The noise rocked through the house, and Gale relaxed his arm as he stared down his adversary.

“Sakata, what are you doing here?” he asked, lowering the gun to stare at the 700 lbs beast of feather and fur that sat in his kitchen. Great golden eyes stared at him out of grey feathers, and he watched the swishing lion’s tail whip across his stove, knocking over a rack of spices.

“Scree!” the griffon cried at him, clawed talons scratching up his hardwood floors.

“Yes, waiting for me, I see that,” Gale said, wincing slightly as he imagined the repair bill. “But you shouldn’t be here at all. Does the library know you’re missing?”

The hybrid bird/lion creature half clucked, half growled at Gale.

Gale sighed, “That’s a problem you know. I should call them.”

He reached to his back pocket to grab his phone, only to be cut off by a ear-piercing shriek. The griffon’s wings flared, barely fitting into the small kitchen space. Gale’s hand froze, slowing rising over his head.

“I don’t know what you expect of me, Sakata,” he said, moving his finger back onto the trigger of his gun. The small caliber would barely clip the griffon, but the distraction should buy him time to get upstairs. She couldn’t maneuver through the hallways easily. “You knew what I’d have to do.”

The griffon responded in low menacing chirps, head to the ground, tail in the air.

“No, I imagine it’s not a nice thing to do to someone,” Gale said slowly, biding his time. The bow was in his bedroom, over the wall. It wasn’t ideal for close range, but certainly better than the gun. “And I am sorry. But you know why it was necessary. And you chose to come here, for whatever reason.”

The griffon paused, feathers relaxing just a touch. She gave a single quizzical cluck.

“No I don’t know why, Sakata,” Gale said. “I’d love to know why you came here.”

One six inch talon vanished behind the kitchen island. It reappeared with a 3 foot catfish attached, caught under the massive gills. The griffon cocked her massive head, giving a single questioning chirp.

The image was so absurd that Gale almost laughed, lowering his hand. “You want me to cook for you?”

The eagle head bobbed up and down eagerly.

“Will you go back in the book when I’m done?” he asked hopefully. Sakata growled a warning noise, but without the accompanying battle pose, it seemed much less threatening.

“Okay, okay,” Gale said, putting the safety back on the gun and placing it on the side table. “We’ll talk about that, okay?”

The griffon cooed at him, hopping out of the cooking area. She left a disaster in her wake, but it was a manageable one, in Gale’s mind. At least compared to the 700 lbs of angry eagle and lion that had stood there before. He was only beginning to really appreciate the mess she had left in his home. The back door was burst inward, scattering glass and broken bits of venetian blinds over the eating area. The griffon herself was settling in at the table, brushing up against Gale like a cat greeting its owner. Gale pet her fondly as he walked into the ruined kitchen, picking up the massive fish.

“You should give me a call next time you want to come over for dinner,” he said, hunting around for a decent flaying knife to take apart the catfish. He found it in the corner with the rest of the knife block. “I’m not sure I have that much in the house.”

The griffon clucked at him disapprovingly and Gale rolled his eyes as he worked. “I’m too old for a mother, Sakata. I’m sure I’ll find something in here.”

The counter was a mess of spilled seasonings. Gale swept them into a bowl, noting the spices. “How do you feel about cajun catfish?” he asked, tossing a bit more paprika and cayenne into the bowl. The griffon practically chirped.

“Yeah, you’d like anything I made,” he said, cracking some black pepper into the mix and massaging it over the fillets. His pan was luckily right where it should be, hanging over the island, the copper catching the fading sun. He tossed it on the stove to heat up with a stick of butter, rooting through the fridge for any decent vegetables. “How do you feel about broccoli?” he asked.

Sakata snorted, jerking her head towards his crisper. Gale followed her gesture. “What? No you can’t have the asparagus. I have to live here, even after you go outside to relieve yourself.”

The griffon squawked again and he pulled out both vegetables with a sigh. “One asparagus, okay? Can’t have the whole neighbourhood stinking.”

The giant bird chirped at him as he got a pot of water boiling. He grabbed a knife and began chopping the veggies. “So, I guess if you’re out here, the library is in a bit of trouble, eh? How many of you got loose?”

For the first time, the beast looked away from him, ruffling the feathers about her neck and chirping.

“Oh really, just you out for a stroll?” Gale said, tossing in the veggies. “Pull the other one Sakata. Who let you out?”

She shifted her head, still not looking. Gale snorted. “Don’t want to tell me? I am retired, you know.”

Gale shook his head, tossing the catfish into the pan. “Suit yourself. If it’s important they’ll likely come tell me themselves.”

The head swiveled on him, chirping.

“Yeah, they tell me I’m retired too,” Gale said. “But it takes some time to train a replacement, you know? Hard to just pull a girl off the street and be like “Hey, remember that degree you just got? It forgot to include that we need you on potential monster fighting duty. Are you any good with a bow?””

Sakata made a snorting noise as Gale loaded up two plates with food, heading over to the table. “Yeah, laugh it up,” he said casually, sliding her the bigger plate. “Now, where did you knock my chair?”

The griffon didn’t bother to respond, burying a massive curved beak into the catfish. Gale sighed, grabbing a seat out of the dining room. When he returned he stared at the plate.

“Did you eat my asparagus?” he asked, pointing at the greens. The bird stared at the ceiling.

“You are the worst liar,” he said, sitting down to eat. “Just make sure you aren’t peeing in my backyard tonight.

The griffon snorted again into her food. Gale looked at the massive head sadly.

“You know they’ll have to come for you eventually, right?” he asked. Sakata stared at him with one big, golden eye, carefully lifting a broccoli floret and eating it.

“I mean, I know it sucks but people these days just don’t know what to do with a griffon flying through their yards,” Gale continued, poking the catfish aimlessly. Sakata let out a questioning noise.

“I guess it doesn’t have to be me who turns you in,” he said softly. “Just try not to make a mess, okay? When they show up here I’ll get them to catch you last.”

The griffon cooed at him.

“Yeah, shaddup and eat you birdbrain,” he said playfully. “And go easy on the new girl when she comes. Poor thing is in for enough trouble as it is.”

The Librarian’s Code, Part 9

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“Are you ready for tonight, Opi?” I asked, slamming my locker closed. I leaned up against it and tried to give him a flirty look.

“I think so,” he said, closing his locker. “I was up all night reading the book.”

“And collecting dew, I hope,” I said, smiling at him through what I hoped were sultry eyes.

“That too,” he said, “You look tired though, you don’t have to come if you don’t want to.”

I straightened up immediately, trying to hide my blushing cheeks by busying myself in my backpack. “What? No, I’m fine. Everything is fine, I wouldn’t want to miss this!”

“You’re sure?” he said, smiling around his braces. “I know you have history last period and Mr Connor just assigned us a ton of reading tonight.”

“Psh, forget that,” I said, though inside I was panicking. Last night had been a late night and I was a slow reader. “I’m definitely going to be there to see your initiation ritual.”

“Great!” he said, looking a little flustered as the school bell rang. “I guess I’ll see you tonight?”

“It’s a date!” I said cheerfully as he waved goodbye. As soon as he turned around, I buried my face into my backpack.It’s a date? My forehead hit my history textbook through the waxed fabric. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

By the time I got to geography class, my cheeks were still burning red. I slide into my desk between Syra and Sam at the back of the classroom. The rest of the class filed in to find their own seats.

“Are you okay?” Sam asked, “You look flushed.”

“I’m fine,” I said, pulling out my notebook. “Everything is fine.”

“That means it’s not fine,” Syra said teasingly. “What’s up? Did you try and make a pass at Opi again?”

“No!” I said loudly, then quieter, “Maybe…”

“I knew it!” Syra crowed. “How’d it go? Did you try to give him the sexy eyes like I told you to?”

“Eww, Syra, where do you learn stuff like this?” Sam said, letting me dodge the question for a moment.

“In a magazine,” Syra said matter-of-factly before turning back to me. “So, did you try it?”

“Yes,” I muttered into my notebook.

“And…?”

“He thought I looked tired.”

Syra burst into laughter that made the teacher give her a dirty look. The teacher moved to the front of the class, attempting to shush everyone so she could begin her lesson. The classroom quieted until Syra was the only one still laughing. The other students turned to stare at us and I wished I could melt into my seat, but Syra seemed unconcerned with their glares. As her laugh faded into giggles, the teacher started up her lesson.

“Seriously, he thought you were tired?” Syra whispered to me.

“Yes,” I muttered under my breath, trying not to meet her eye.

“Show me your flirty look,” she demanded quietly.

“No.”

“Come onnn,” she whined a bit too loudly. The teacher glared at her and she sat up straighter, taking some notes. I thought it was over until one of her sheets of paper started nudging me in the elbow.

I glanced down at it, seeing her grinning beneath long, blonde hair. She poked me with the folded sheet of paper again. I rolled my eyes, taking the note.

Pleeeeeeease?

the note read.

NO!!!

I scribbled angrily, underlining it twice. I folded it and passed it back. I heard her pencil scratch a few times and the note landed back on my notebook.

Pretty please with sugar on top?

I rolled my eyes harder, glowering at her in a way that said Really?. Instead of taking the hint though, she looked excited instead. She grabbed another sheet of paper, scribbling a question and turning it my way.

Was that the look?!?

I furrowed my eyebrows, snatching up the page.

NO!!!!!

Syra frowned at me, grabbing the sheet back. She scribbled across it quickly, passing it to Sam behind my chair. I leaned over Sam’s shoulder as she unfolded the note.

Was that the look?!?

NO!!!!!

Saaaam, Mary’s being mean to me.

Sam rolled her eyes, shifting the paper at an angle so I couldn’t see her response. She passed it back behind me to Syra. Syra unfolded it so I couldn’t read it, audibly scoffing at her response. She angrily wrote her response, passing the note back.

Sam took the note, quickly peeking at the answer. Then she tucked it under her book, explicitly ignoring Syra and focusing on the teacher. Syra humphed at her, also turning to the teacher. I gave her a weird look, but she didn’t pass me anymore notes until the bell rang again.

“What did you tell her?” I asked Sam as soon as class was dismissed.

“She said she’d tell the teacher I was passing notes if I didn’t leave you alone,” Syra said bitterly. Sam nodded.

“You didn’t have to do that, Sam,” I said. “She wasn’t bothering me that much.”

Sam gave me a hurt look. “I was trying to help. You looked embarrassed and she was going to get us all in trouble.”

“Yeah, but that’s just what Syra does!”

Sam glowered at me. “Well excuse me then.” She turned around and stalked off through the hall.

“Does that mean I get to see the look now?” Syra asked happily. I stared at her stupidly.

“Uhhh…” I stammered. “I gotta get to class…”

I turned around quickly, walking toward my history class at the end of the school.


We always met by Sam’s locker after class, especially when we were going out together. I waited for the two after class, but they never came by. The halls were empty by the time I decided to check Syra’s locker, but they weren’t there either. I walked the four blocks to her house alone.

When I got there, I could see that the others were already in the clubhouse. I sighed, walking across the grass to the dark, wooden room. I could hear Opi talking.

“Does anything look different now, Sam?” he asked. “Are you seeing ley lines now?”

“I don’t think so,” she replied. “But I don’t know what they’d look like.”

“So how do we know it worked?”

“I’d say the glowing light was probably a good sign,” I said, slipping inside.

“Mary!” Opi said from the centre of the circle. “You’re here!”

“I said I would be,” I muttered, hoping he couldn’t see me blush in the dim light.

“”Syra said she wasn’t sure you were coming,” he said.

I gave Syra and Sam the evil eye. “Well maybe if they’d waited for me after school…”

Sam at least looked a little guilty but Syra just stuck out her tongue. I stuck my tongue out further and the two of us made increasingly stupid noises at each other.

“No bickering!” Opi said, pointing at both of us. “My turn for magic. Sit down and make nice.”

I sat down against the wall, sticking my tonuge out one last time as Opi closed his eyes, the same way Sam had. Unlike her, he didn’t hum. Instead, he began to chant quietly. He started with a monosyllabic noise, repeating it in the dark room. Nothing happened, however, until he switched to a different sound.

Slowly yet surely, he began to gather an aura as well. But where Sam’s had sparkled like sunlight, his wavered, flickering about him like waves of energy. It reminded me of a campfire, or the way heat rises off concrete in the summer. His aura glowed a deeper shade as well, a burnt orange colour like the leather book that sat before me.

He moved on from that chant quickly, cycling through another two words with no apparent effect. When he switched again, I noticed the water in the jar reacting again. Unlike for Sam, this time it froze, forming a tower of ice crystals in the centre of the bowl like an upside-down icicle. I watched it grow as he continued his chant.

Soon he fell silent. I peeked around behind him to see if there had been any other reactions around the circle, but I couldn’t spot anything. The candles still flickered in their bowl and the milkweed still lay in the cup. I did think the milkweed might be a little fluffier than it should have after a day in a sweaty hand, but nothing impressive like the tiny icicle palace being built on this side. Opi exhaled deeply, and suddenly the ice splashed back into water, the aura fading into the air above him.

“Well, did it work?” he asked as soon as he opened his eyes.

“Yes!” Sam said, clapping her hands together.

“Yes, but…” I said more cautiously.

“But what?” he demanded.

Syra chimed in. “It was different. There was nothing glittering this time, and the water didn’t jump around, it just froze.”

Opi frowned. “But I did exactly what the book said. Even better than Sam did, she didn’t do the chant.”

Sam blushed slightly. “I forgot the words.”

“Ugh, I have to memorize something?” I said, looking at the book.

“That’s what I said,” Syra complained. “But that shouldn’t be an issue for you, Miss Smarty Pants. You’re the one who aced every test this year.”

I snorted. “I hate memorizing. I study so I don’t have to memorize anything.”

“You’ll have to tell me how that works in History class,” Syra said teasingly.

“Stop bickering!” Opi said again loudly.

“Oh hush,” Syra said. “We’re having fun. This is fun, right Mary?”

“Yeah, it’s fun” I said good naturedly. “But I still don’t understand what we’re supposed to do.” I looking to Sam.

“It’s like, some sort of meditation thing,” Sam said, not wanting meet my eyes. “You have to focus on like, opening up these seven energy points in your body, starting at the base of your spine and moving up to your head.”

“And you’re supposed to chant something?” I asked.

“Well, I didn’t.” Sam shrugged. “I don’t know how picky it all is.”

“And I have to memorize all seven energy points?”

“Yeah, they have all these different meanings and names and a different chant. But I didn’t, and you guys seemed to think it worked.”

“I guess,” I said. “But yours was really different.”

Sam frowned. “If you say so.”

“Do you think they’ll all be different?” I asked Sam and Opi. They looked at each other and shrugged.

“Guess we’ll see when Rou gets home.”

The Librarian’s Code, Part 8

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“Rachael wait up!” Mark yelled through the back room. I didn’t slow down though. I walked down the stone, spiral staircase that lead to the library’s basement. I couldn’t afford to slow down.

“God damn it,” I heard him grumbling from the top of the stairs. “Rachael, what the hell are you planning on doing?”

“I plan on finding those books!” I yelled, not even turning my head to yell up the stairs. “And if I have to go through some fae to do so…”

I could hear him cursing the whole way down the stairs. I ignored him, moving into the stone hallway that lead away from the stairs. Brightly coloured and bejeweled doors lined the hallway beside me, but I was looking for the penultimate door in the row. At least, until we reached the common room at the end of the hall.

I passed the green door, covered in a leafy pattern and intertwined with mahogany vines. Different shades of green were interwoven into the door, forming an image that seemed different at every angle of the door. At one angle, it looked like a tree reaching up to the sky. At another, it looked like there was an entire forest in the mahogony vines. I took a few more steps and the vines seemed to melt away, forming an open field of yellow flowers. I looked away before I could see them transform into eyes.

The next door was as blue as the previous one was green. It rippled and shimmered between different shades and hues. Mother-of-pearl inlays formed peaks and waves over a door that seemed to be constantly in motion while staying perfectly still. But that wasn’t the door I wanted either.

The next door was mine. I didn’t even need to look to recognize it, but I did anyways. It was the colour of dark washed jeans, the shade of the night sky, the sort of unnatural hue that made you question if it was purple or blue. The shade seemed to seamlessly fade between the two colours, broken only by the onyx black symbols that were scrawled across it.

“Rachael, stop!” Mark yelled. I could hear the anger in his voice and I sighed, stopping outside of my door. He approached me like an incoming storm.

“For fuck’s sake, Rachael, we’re supposed to be a team here!” he raged, his footsteps ringing angrily down the hall past the red door. “This is not drama tv! This is not the goddamn ‘Rachael goes Jack Bauer on everyone’ show!”

He was walking past the yellow door now, the golden light playing over his stern face. I pointed at the indigo door. “I can fix this!”

“There is a process here, Rachael!” he yelled, stomping past the green door that stared at him with cat-like eyes. “A process that you’re very much ignoring. Before we go unleashing even more evils on the world…”

He was standing in front of me now, staring up at me in a way that made me feel small, despite my extra inches on him. “We talk to Kinder first,” he concluded.

I sighed. “I could figure this out in 3 questions, Mark.”

“We talk to Kinder first,” he repeated, hands on his hips.

“And you’re willing to admit we fucked up?” I asked.

He rolled his eyes. “Is that what you’re worried about here? Not the ‘tomes of unspeakable danger unleashed upon the modern world’? Admitting that we got caught with our pants around our feet is what scares you?”

“No,” I said sulkily.

“Out of the basement, Rachael,” he said, pointing towards the staircase. I sighed again, walking back towards the rainbow of doors.

“I hope you’re willing to be the one to explain everything to Kinder,” I grumbled.

“I will explain,” he said, following behind me. “And I will explain to the Falconers, if we need to.”

“And if that all fails?” I said bitterly.

“Then I will be be the first to advocate for plan Jack Bauer,” he said. “But we will do this everyone’s approval.”

“I don’t know why you all freak out over a tiny little summoning,” I muttered.

Mark sighed as I started climbing the stairs. “We’re here to contain evils, Rachael. Not unleash them.”

“I don’t unleash anything,” I retorted. “I use them!”

“Yes yes,” he said patronizingly, pushing me gently through the backroom and back out into the lobby where the other five librarians waited.

“Did you come up with anything?” I demanded of Karen and Kelcie as soon as I saw them.

Kelcie looked about ready to strangle me right there but Karen shook her head. “It’s an oak leaf, Rachael. I don’t know what you want me to tell you. Oak trees are sometimes considered sacred? They used to hold the birds that were the messengers to goddesses? That might explain the feather but it could really be anything. The Earth realm doesn’t have nearly as much symbolism as yours.”

“That might be useful,” I muttered, “Kelcie, anything?”

“I already told you, that’s useless for me,” she said between grit teeth, “With Fae it’s as likely to be a red herring as it is to be real symbol.”

I grunted, turning the information over in my head. Mark cleared his throat noisily, interrupting me.

“We’ve decided,” he said, giving me a dark look, “that it would be best to go to Kinder right now. Hopefully, he’ll have some insight on what to do next.”

Amber let out a gasp. I couldn’t help but let out a dark laugh at her reaction.

“Yeah, if you think I’m scary, wait until you meet Kinder.”