Doloise stopped me before I came close to the automatic doors.  “This is a place of danger,” she said.

I blinked.  “It’s a library.”

She stared at me, hard, through those amber sunglasses.  “Does that mitigate its dread in any fashion?  Does that lower your alarms so that you cannot see its true nature?”

I thought for a moment.  “Knowledge is power, fear the librarians,” was more of a bumpersticker than any kind of truism to me.  A librarian wasn’t necessarily a practitioner, although they had access to knowledge, access which indicated a door of some sort.  Perhaps I was in the wrong business altogether.

(Truthfully, I believe that the Internet has the potential to make libraries redundant.  I’m not quite gung-ho on self-publishing because I think that the effort to find someone to take your work and publish it actually does weed out some of the utter tripe, but I’m a firm believer of Sturgeon’s Most Well-Known Law.  (And several of his lesser laws, but that’s neither here nor there.)  In my heart, though, information and whimsy both need to be free.  Which doesn’t mean they don’t have to be sensical in some part.  Glittering vampires?  Give me a break.)

Of course, she could just be referring to the sorcerors.  I found a handful of words that indicated a brotherhood of the knowing people (the “znaiushchie liudi”) that these might hail from, but my accent would be atrocious, and this was one of those places where looking dumb would not be a bad thing.

What’s with having a “guardian and guide” if you don’t listen?

“Be on alert, then,” I told her.  “I’m going in.”

That sounds a lot tougher when you’re armed and you make that kind of practiced swoop through the door that minimizes your profile and puts your back right to the wall.  For me, I simply stepped through the threshold.  I dropped a couple of books I had meant to return last week into the small access panels for that purpose, and then went into the main part of the library.

The room we were meeting in was off to the right, and I gave a friendly (if still solemn – I was on “alert”) nod to the librarian manning the station off to my left.  I see her all the time because the reserved section is over there, but I don’t remember her name.   I resolved to keep it in memory.  After all, she could be some kind of fiendish danger.

Doloise followed me carefully.  I considered it for a moment – weren’t bodyguards supposed to go in front of you to make sure you weren’t walking into an ambush?  Of course, she might be bewildered by the grey shelves filled with those diabolical tomes.  I crossed through the fiction section indiscriminate of the potential hazards that well organized (alphabetical, even!) novels might offer me.

I would totally have been well pwned if I turned a corner and a demon tried to eat my face.  I would have deserved it, petard and all.

I tried to be a little more serious as I went through the doorway.

There were a few people sitting, one standing, and another leaning against the wall in that brooding posture that says their mom or dad brought them and they wanted to be doing something else.  Teenager.  Check.  One woman, and two elderly men, all who could entirely be from initial visual contact from an Eastern European or, dare I say it, Northern Asian background.

The teenager brooded at me, probably because I was the next target walking through the door.  He did, however, drop his jaw a little bit when Doloise came in behind me.  I hadn’t realized she had that effect on other people, or maybe he saw things I just didn’t see anymore, through familiarity, talent, or even a lack of both.

His reaction goaded the woman to look up at us.  She said something in a language I guessed was Russian to the elderly man she was speaking with, and stood up.

“Can we help you?” she asked.  Slight accent.  She was also a blonde, and she wasn’t really looking at me.

I couldn’t honestly confess a sudden interest in poetry, but I didn’t really need to as that’s when she drew out an amulet from around her neck and Doloise pushed me to the ground.