Outside of the office, there was heated discussion- also known as yelling. “-banned from the library! You will be too, if you question what I saw with my own eyes!” Librarian Reed never yelled- it was a library after all- but even he had his limits.
Douglas wanted to keep listening, but he really did need that burn ointment. He wasn’t exactly good with pain… he was glad he had missed his eye, though one eyebrow was gone. Almost half his hair, too. Fortunately his hair being on fire had mostly burned his hair and not much of his scalp. The ointment stung as he gingerly rubbed it on, but it almost immediately cooled the area and brought a bit of pain relief.
As he was just finishing, Librarian Reed came into the office. “Well, that’s taken care of for now… now what should be done with you?”
Douglas held up the ointment then pointed to his head. He bowed gratefully from his sitting position.
“Put it on already, have you? Good. Now show me that book.” Librarian Reed gestured to the half-burnt book Douglas had carried with him, leaving it on the desk unconsciously. Douglas handed it over. Pages crumpled and cracked as Librarian Reed opened it, before he finally got to a later section of the book and started skimming it, murmuring words to himself. “Metzger, hmm?” he tossed the book into the trash bin. “You’re a clever kid, Douglas… I like that in you, but listen here. I take the rules here very seriously. You know the rules. No. Fire. In. The. Library!” Librarian Reed’s hand slapped down on the table. Douglas just looked at him and shrugged, gesturing out of the room. “Oh, don’t give me that look. If you’d actually harmed any worthwhile books, you’d be out of here this instant. And yes, I know you did it. I don’t know which method you use for magic… but nobody is this eager to come to the library to read history. Besides, most of the books you read are about magic.” Librarian Reed crossed his arms in front of him, “Those three are still quite at fault for pushing you to the point you needed to do this… though I doubt you expected the burns to hurt so much, hmm? You must have had careful guidance for when you first practiced fire magic, or gotten lucky.”
Douglas couldn’t respond, partly because he couldn’t write anything fast enough… and because he couldn’t really argue any of the points.
“Because this is your first offense and there wasn’t any… real damage done, you’re banned from the library for… one month. If you chose to return after that, I would suggest looking up shield spells. That’s especially true if you plan to keep going down to the lower levels.”
Douglas couldn’t help but wince at that. Part of it was because he’d touched his forehead, but the other part was because Librarian Reed knew everything. Then again… why wouldn’t he? Douglas kept track of people coming and going, but he’d only been doing it for a few years… and Librarian Reed had been watching the library for decades. Of course he wasn’t just sitting around doing nothing.
“Come on then. You should leave before anyone can cause any more trouble. I’ll escort you to outside the gate.”
Douglas soon found himself outside of the academy in a daze. Banned from the library? What would he do? Of course, the obvious answer would be to go back to his room to sleep… and maybe buy some more ointments in the morning. It wasn’t that late yet, but the emotional turmoil was tiring.
When he woke up in the early morning, Douglas’ head was a bit better- well, it actually hurt more, but the inside was functioning somewhat better. Of course he was banned from the library… and while it was a whole month, it was just a month. And while he hadn’t damaged any books… that mattered… he’d actually come quite close on accident. Precise control of magic was harder in stressful situations.
One month would feel like forever… but Librarian Reed had said he could come back after that- and even recommended he look into shields. Presumably he didn’t mean a heavy slab of metal, because there would be little reason to read about those.
There was another good reason for him not to go back to the academy right away. Zachary’s uncle was a real wizard… maybe one of the council or something. He could get Douglas banned from academy grounds for almost anything, and while Librarian Reed had dominion over the library, it wouldn’t do much good if he couldn’t get to the library.
Then there was Librarian Reed. Douglas liked him and listened to him, but he hadn’t realized quite how important he probably was. Sure, a librarian was the person who watches and organizes all the books… but this was all the books in the Endless Library. Douglas wondered if that counted the lower levels… or if the people with staves were also librarians of a sort. Furthermore, staves were used for combat… and Librarian Reed had mentioned shield spells for going down… were there dangers? In a library? Of course, the answer could be any number of things- foremost of which would be magical formations that were set up to defend particular areas or that were falling apart and working improperly. Douglas wondered if he might have died if he walked too far from the stairs… or at least gotten injured. That would have been quite hard to explain, but Douglas supposed he really kept few of the secrets he thought he did.
As for what he would do with a month away from the library… well, he wouldn’t completely go without practicing magic. However, he wouldn’t have much he could do that was new. Douglas looked down at his bag and realized he had accidentally kept a couple books. He didn’t think it was a good idea to go back now, so he would just keep them safe and apologize when he returned. Librarian Reed had let him borrow a few history books- Douglas mostly got them for cover purposes- so he would hopefully be understanding. If the books got damaged… Douglas would leave them with the guards at the gate and flee the country.
For the rest of the time, he could continue working with Margaret. She needed the help and he needed the money. Maybe he could save up some instead of basically breaking even.