Urban Fantasy · Writing

XIX.

XIX.

The top floor of the Library is the Special Collections. Temperature and light controlled, this floor houses some of the greatest works in history, both mundane and magical. The second copy of the Testament of Longinus is kept here, copied by the centurion’s own hand. There is an original Gutenberg Bible and an illustrated Alice in Wonderland, line art done in black ink and gold accents by Michael Kaluta. If the pages are fanned in just the right way, the book will rise into the air and flit about endlessly just like a bread-and-butter-fly.

The Special Collection is Lydia Dumont’s especial pride and joy. Many suggest that it is because they are, many of them, of her own procuring. However, no one would ever actually be daft or foolish enough to ask. Ask the Librarian to intimate just how old she is? Are you mental? No one values their lives so little.

Cool hands clad in white gloves that seem to have been made just for her (because they were), Lydia handles these precious tomes with all the respect they are due. The Grimorum Arcanorum thrums in her hands as she sets it down on a pedestal, fingers trailing over its ornate cover and the edges of its gilded pages. Even she does not dare open it; that would be tempting an all-too-strong desire, a desire that lives in every magical being, however dormant. Power. No, the Grimorum stays closed.

A coterie of gargoyle hatchlings is coming tonight on their traditional field trip before their first Winging Night, and the magical tome is at the center of one of the deepest lessons and cautionary tales of gargoyle history. She will see the young faces gape and gasp as she tells the story of long-lived gargoyles and their battle in the New World. A few times, she had even managed to get one of the original clan to come and be a special speaker for the children, tell their story themselves, but that had not been possible this year. Nevertheless, Lydia fancies herself a satisfactory stand-in-storyteller.

The Library is a pinnacle in the community, a cornerstone for all its citizens, magical and non. Here children are introduced to the wonder of stories in their infancy; they learn to read ahead of entering kindergarten; classes are held for those with Abilities, to further the teachings they receive at home in the understanding, controlling, and wise use of said Abilities. Within these venerable stacks, students are taught to check their information, question everything, and cite their sources. Here they pore and poke and prod and prove. Here knowledge is deepened, and horizons are expanded.

As Spring Break nears, the Night Librarian knows that she will soon be overrun by stressed-out university students cramming for midterms, conducting experiments and projects in the dedicated science lab (Walksley’s eminent domain), and researching papers and theses and dissertations. She will be prepared, as always. Study rooms will have fresh sign-up sheets and clean windows, chairs will be reupholstered and re-stuffed, tables re-balanced and buffed, chairs oiled so as not to rock or squeak, and overhead lightbulbs changed so they don’t be buzz but will offer the best light to see by while at the same time not being detrimental to her precious charges: the books.

Lydia Dumont is the chatelaine paramount in the Library and no one questions her supremacy, her extensive knowledge, or her unflappable ability to be right. Why should they? She’s been here vastly longer than any of them; many of the young ones’ parents can easily recall her red-lipped smile appearing around the corner of a stack to ask if they needed help with anything or to direct them to the correct section to find just what they desired. Some parents (and even grandparents) tell stories of flashing eyes, a drop in the immediate temperature around them, or the hint of sharpness at the corner of a rubied lip when they were caught roughhousing or horsing around in the Library; she made it abundantly clear that such things were not abided.

The sounds of an approaching clutch of gargoyle children and their parents catch the perfect pearly-white shell of her ear, and Lydia makes her way downstairs to greet her evening’s appointment. The air of the Library seems to sigh as she passes, in relief and adoration at her presence, presiding, and care. The Library is her Kingdom and Lydia Dumont its (eternal?) queen.

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