The library was surprisingly empty for a monday afternoon, only a handful of students milling about the bookshelves or working at the computers. Half the fluorescent lights were burned out, leaving dark patches all over the room. Salem sat in one, laying on the floor with his legs propped on the shelf, a stack of books balanced on his chest. Val was scooting around in a rolling chair, propelling herself by pushing off nearby shelves with her feet.
“Glad you could make it,” Val said as I reached the aisle they took up. Open books littered the floor, discarded by Salem in his search.
“Found anything yet?”
“Nothing that I didn’t already know,” Salem says, rolling himself back upright. “It’s just a lot of study fragments and witness accounts of the other spirits, which I looked into far before all this.”
I settled in beside Salem, Val moving around us to find more books. I opened a large book with a dark blue cover and began skimming for anything of use when Val nudged me with her foot as she rolled by.
“Hey Val, do you know where Winston is today?” I asked as she stopped to spin idly in her chair.
“Probably out and about scheming or plotting his next attempt at a world takeover,” She chuckled and grabbed another book off the shelf. “You know what’s funny? He came to every show last week.”
“All four of them. I was genuinely surprised to see him after opening night, especially because he had a bouquet of flowers for me.”
I sat up to look at her. “You’re telling me that Winston Park, our friend whose only life goal is to rule the world, brought you flowers after opening night?”
“What the actual hell?”
She started laughing and spun around in her chair. “That’s what I said!”
“I was at opening night and I didn’t even see him!”
“One of the house girls told me he snuck in when the curtain opened, but they didn’t stop him for risk of him forcing a pamphlet upon them.”
Salem cast a book aside and opened another one.
“I saw him do that to most of sound crew during the musical last year,” I added, closing the book I was reading to pick up another.
“I don’t think he had any on him at any of the shows,” Val pushed herself around the corner to search another shelf. “I hugged him and didn’t feel the usual stack of propaganda in his coat pocket.”
Salem threw the book he was reading down the aisle. “There’s nothing here at all! Nobody ever thought to write down anything about how to banish a spirit once released!”
“What if,” I said, setting my book in my lap. “Nobody’s ever released a spirit, because none have ever been sealed away.”
Val came flying around the corner, stopping Salem from commenting on my idea. “We’ve been doing this all wrong! Let’s search the whole library instead of just the record section!”
“I don’t think we have nearly enough time to search this entire library. Or people,” Salem replied.
“No no no, I mean with magic! What if we do a keyword search of the entire library? It’s not that hard of a spell. I can do it easy.”
She dragged me and Salem out into the middle of the library, and I could see the roped off area where we found the plant off in the corner. Nobody was at the computers anymore, and I couldn’t see anybody between the bookshelves. Val clapped her hands and turned to Salem. “What shall we look for?”
He shrugged, avoiding her intense eye contact. “Let’s start broad with something like, elder evil spirit.”
I was about to comment on how not broad that was when Val raised her hands, magic buzzing in the air around her fingers. The sound of the fluttering of thousands of pages filled the library, but no books came flying out with results. We tried a dozen keywords, no books seeming to contain what we needed. Salem was beginning to lose hope after we searched for “sealed spirit”, but Val was far from giving up. After four more attempts, a book launched off the shelf behind me, the spine just missing my head.
“What did you search?” I asked, still reeling from nearly being knocked out by a spelled book.
Val turned the book over to reveal a small history book with a low resolution picture of the moon on the cover. “Something about spirit specialized powers, or types of magic. I don’t really know for certain, but we got something, and that’s what matters.”
The book opened to a page occupied by a wall of text and an equally large footnote section at the bottom. One of the footnotes was highlighted by the spell, giving a small piece of information about the types of magic and the connection to the spirits, most notably that even the most dangerous types of magic have spirits. There wasn’t even anything specific in the note, and the text it referred to was even more lacking.
“After a full hour of searching, this is all we can find?” Val sighed and set the book on a table in dismay.
Salem snatched the book and returned to the page. “What if, just thinking here, the spirit I released had control over dangerous magic?”
“Like the spells used in the wars?” Val asked.
I felt my face go pale. “Or worse.”
“This spirit being released could heighten the power of that type of magic,” Salem stared at the book, as if wishing the words he was saying weren’t true. “So the spirit being in the school could cause students to potentially cast horribly dangerous spells, maybe without meaning to.”
I wanted to text Diantha and tell her how much bigger this was than we thought, but I knew she wouldn’t answer; she never answers my texts when I’m asking about an assignment, so I doubt she’d answer me now.
“We need to look into this a bit more, don’t you think?” Val said, trying to remind us that we weren’t presently in immediate danger. “Let’s see if there’s anything on this outside our library before we make any moves.”
Salem nodded, putting the book back onto the shelf it flew from. “That’s all we can do now, so we might as well start looking.”