It was the other A Librarian, the one who’d met them at the door, who showed them where the main library was.
“There are other repositories of knowledge, and we tend to some of them down in the lower levels, seeing what archives grow from the roots that extend down into the Atrament,” she said, “but this is where we keep the majority of the research materials we use for our hunts.”
A Librarian looked rather stunned as he looked around. “Well, thank you. This is wonderful.”
And it was. The library was enormous, stretching up for maybe ten entire storeys, great vaulted ceilings with swirling scaled patterns, and shelves packed thickly with thousands upon thousands of weighty tomes. Unlike the whildernesses she had seen, the books here were regimented and organised, as opposed to being stacked hither and thither on shelves that grew organically out of the substrate of the Library-with-a-capital-L.
“Big libraries have little libraries, upon their backs to bite ‘em. And little libraries have lesser libraries, and so on ad infinitum,” Aidra murmured, “in the land of Mordor where the shadows lie.”
Alice attempted to facilitate her attempts at ignoring him by reading some of the titles on the books. A large amount of numbered copies of the Encyclopaedia Draconica was simple enough, but why did they have something called The Ladybyrd Book Of Wyrms?
As she glanced up the shelves, something occurred to her. “Um, how would I get a book from up there?”
A Librarian looked up where she was pointing, at the shelves that stretched up the entire walls, to the distant ceiling. “Oh, you climb. The shelves are perfectly sturdy, don’t worry.”
Alice made a squeaking noise that was two parts sudden terror and one part disbelief, which A Librarian took as a follow-up question.
“Oh, right. If you can’t climb that far, there are some ladders, over there.”
She looked ‘over there’. The ladders were the sort that people used, traditionally, to pick cherries. Each of them must have been at least twenty feet long, widening at the base, and looked positively terrifying to climb.
“I’ll leave finding books on high shelves to… A Librarian or Twelfth?”
“I mean,” said Aidra, “I can fly. So can Red, actually, but I mentioned it first.”
“You’re willing to go get books for me?”
“God dangit, Aidra. What’re you even going to do while the grownups are doing research and stuff?”
“Oh, I’m gonna build a house of cards. A tower of cardbylon. A ziggurat worthy of my grandeur!”
With that, he walked over to the middle of the carpeted library floor, and pulled a stack of cards out of his pocket. And then another out of a different pocket. And a third out of a sleeve. Already having pulled more than an entire pack of cards out of various secreted places, he started to shake cards out of his sleeves in a steadily-increasing stream.
A Librarian watched this with an eyebrow raised. “You are going to clean the Order’s library up after you’re done, right?”
“I assure you, someone will,” he replied cheerily.
Nik sighed. “Sorry, ma’am. He’ll definitely tidy them up once he’s done.”
“My fortress will be impenetrable!”
“Well, if you’re sure,” she said. “If you want something else, I’ll be just around the corner — give us a shout, and I’ll see what I can do.”
Doing actual research was, it turned out, a refreshingly familiar and mundane thing to be doing, even if the subject was significantly more esoteric than what she’d been doing at uni. Reading about lots of different kinds of dragons was pretty interesting, to the point that it was distracting her from her actual research into what the heck was going on with STAR.
To be fair, a sideline in what was going on with the Bookwyrm would have been pretty useful too, but that was what A Librarian (the other, older one) was apparently working on. So, she cross-referenced various handwritten journals in a variety of strange languages, attempting to correlate accounts of seeing Bookwyrms, STAR people, and anything else that seemed vaguely relevant. She was starting to get a bit of a headache from looking at densely-written and unfamiliar languages until whatever switch it was in her brain flipped, and she could read them, no matter how messy and cramped the handwriting was.
Either way, she thought she might have been getting somewhere. The Esteemed Order of Dragon Hunters kept obsessive track of people they thought might be ‘Rogue Dracomancers’, and from what actions she read of this person, they certainly seemed like they might be fairly rogue. Apparently, during an altercation several years past, they’d defended themselves using fire-based magic, practically verboten in the Library.
Meanwhile, Aidra’s tower of improbably-stacked cards continued to grow, battlements extending in stubborn defiance of gravity and architectural sense. By the time she’d found a copy of a field agent’s diary, detailing how they’d sought whatever was occasionally making the balls in the Early Wyrming System fall, and discovered evidence of this STAR dragon-agent person-thing, Aidra was working on adding a system of drawbridges from the seventieth-story gantry to a secondary tower. Or maybe a proportional model of the Saturn V rocket?
“I will yet scrape the heavens!” he exclaimed, noticing her looking up at what he was doing. He was standing, in defiance of gravity, on a pile of cards that floated vaguely around his feet. Even worse, he was tilted over at an angle that should have had him falling off, but this was apparently the benefit of being able to fly.
Alice rolled her eyes and went back to her reading. The diary described a group of people, ‘somewhat like A Librarians in aſpect’ according to the writer – those must have been humans, she supposed – one of whom was vaguely reptilian in appearance. ‘Much like a beaſt or wyrm, they ſeemed, ſcaled in orange-gold, great horns upon their head, and with three blazing eyes upon their forehead. The beaſtly creatcher kept its mortal eyes cloſed, and did glance about with burning rapidity’. The diary-writer supposed the dracomancer was some form of ‘wyrm of fyre’, but also that they seemed too well-defended to approach and not dangerous enough to justify calling backup, so they left them alone. The writing was cramped, and the Inkomon it was written in was painfully archaic-sounding and full of needless descriptive cues, but the information, if not necessarily verifiable, was very interesting nonetheless.
There was even a sketch of this ‘fowl dracomancer’, which she first committed to memory, and then called A Librarian to take a picture of with… a book?
“It’s a Tome of Impressions,” he explained, “I can use it to copy pictures from other books, or do an artistic impression of real-life scenes, I guess.”
“It’s a pho-Tome!” Aidra shouted, from atop his tower of cards.
Alice rolled her eyes. “Is it made of carbon paper or something?”
“Yeah, I think so,” A Librarian replied, also ignoring Aidra.
He held the book open over the illustration and tapped the page. A little fuzzy copy of the illustration from the book appeared, and then he moved the book around until it popped into focus.
“So this is STAR’s dragon-mage?”
“Yeah. Apparently, something to do with fire, which I’m sure will go down well in these parts.”
He winced. “Ergh. Yeah. Do we know if this is definitely one of the people looking for you? We’ve only really seen those two we met in Foyer – I think that Ariel woman was a Blue magician of some form, and the other one was… weird.”
“Not a clue, because I have no idea how clandestine magical organisations work, even if they’re from my home Realm.”
“That’s fair, I suppose. I guess we could presume they’d send someone different the second time?”
“Yeah, so any information is good information. And I’ll ask Red if he’s seen some of these people before.”
“Well, I think he’s partway through the treatises on the lifecycle of Bookwyrms, so he’ll welcome the relief.”