‘You’ll accept that?’ Kai demanded, his face brightening.
‘I may be suspicious,’ Vale said, ‘but I hope that I am not stupid. He has already made his position towards me extremely clear, after all.’
Irene took a deep breath. ‘If you have no objection, there is one more thing I would like to do before we sleep.’
‘What is that?’
Irene smiled a little. It was good to know that this was within her power again, now that the chaos contamination was out of her system, and that Vale trusted her enough to consider it. It helped her feel less ashamed of herself. ‘It’s possible to link a suitably similar space to the Library.’ She surveyed Vale’s office again. ‘In practice, that means there has to be a reasonable number of books present, or some other sort of storage media. It won’t enable passage, but it will . . . well, it can make that area a sort of annex of the Library, and that would prohibit creatures of chaos from entering. Or, more specifically, it will prevent Alberich from being able to get in. If he does realize that we survived . . .’
‘Ah. A good thought. Will this involve any sort of “magic”?’
‘Only the innate force of the Library itself,’ Irene said, she hoped reassuringly. She didn’t want to go into the whole question of the Language. She’d already said more than enough for one night, to an outsider. ‘You probably won’t notice anything at all.’
‘Why did your colleague who was murdered not do this?’ Vale asked. ‘Or did he?’
‘It wouldn’t have lasted,’ Irene answered. She’d been through this in basic training. ‘The problem with declaring an area in sympathy with the Library is that it only works as long as nobody takes any books away from it. Your lodgings will be safe because nobody will be removing any books from here this evening. Mr Aubrey couldn’t have done the same to the British Library. The protection would have come down the moment someone took a book out of it.’
‘Ah.’ Vale sat back in his chair. ‘Very well. You may proceed, Miss Winters.’
It didn’t take long. She simply invoked the Library, in the Language, in the shortest possible way that it could conveniently be done without damage to the speaker or the surroundings. The more precise the definition, the more harm it might do to everything around it by linguistically shaking its surroundings into conformity. Declaring the Library’s unabbreviated name, a single word, would remove everything that was not Library.
Irene therefore used half a dozen sentences. She felt the snap of coherence as the synchronization took place, and with it a greater sense of comfort. She felt in control again.
‘Odd,’ Vale said. He rubbed at the bridge of his nose, frowning. ‘I thought that I would feel something more than that.’
‘What did you feel?’ Irene asked curiously.
‘Something of a headache, like the high pressure before a storm.’ Vale shrugged. ‘I have no talent for such sorceries. Another reason for my differences with my family.’
Irene was about to say, It’s hardly sorcery, but decided that it wasn’t worth the argument. She was also wildly curious about Vale’s break with his family, but this was hardly the moment to pry. ‘It should keep Alberich out, which is the important thing,’ she reiterated.
‘Excellent.’ Vale brushed his hands together and rose to his feet, all business once more. ‘Then, for the moment, I suggest we all get some sleep. Madame Bradamant’s information is necessary for any further hypotheses. Unless it is possible for you to reach her via some arcane method?’ he added hopefully.
‘I’m sorry,’ Irene said. ‘I have no specific link that I can use to reach her.’
‘Your connection to the Library?’ Vale suggested. ‘Would that work on its own, or could it be used as the focal point for some other spell?’
‘That wouldn’t work,’ Kai said. ‘The Library link is to the Library rather than other Librarians, and it surpasses lesser sorceries. Irene and Bradamant are safe from Fae glamours and minor spells because they’re directly connected to a greater power. Such glamours would be as insignificant as starlight in sunlight.’
Vale raised his brows. ‘But not yourself?’ he asked, giving Kai more friendly attention than he had done since the river-spirit incident.
‘I’m still a trainee,’ Kai said, smiling as he stood in turn, then offering Irene a hand to help her rise. ‘For the moment I don’t have that sort of connection. What powers I have are my own and my family’s.’
‘Your . . . family?’ Vale enquired, in a tone that was an invitation to expand on the subject.
‘There is a temporary disagreement on the subject of my future,’ Kai said. ‘I hope to win them round.’
Irene suspected there was more to it than that. The dragons – very well, the single dragon whom she had met – seemed to tolerate the Library as some sort of human eccentricity. It seemed notable only for its admirable taste in fiction, and certainly not a prospective life for one of their children. (Spawn? Eggs? Younglings? She didn’t have vocabulary for this.) It was now quite obvious why Kai had claimed that his family was dead; she could understand why he’d told the lie, in view of the greater secret. What she didn’t know was how he was going to resolve the situation. Or how the Library would resolve it for him.
But then again, if Coppelia knew about Kai’s true nature, perhaps there were other dragons at large in the Library. Maybe there was a Secret Alliance. (That sort of thing would demand capital letters.) Perhaps the lower depths of the Library sheltered great slithering coils of ancient dragons and . . .