Chapter 2: Problem Books
By the time Dawn’s shift ended, not only was she starving, but she had hardly found any of the books. She managed to check on the titles of the ones she did remember in the library computer system, and found that four of them had been checked out (including The Practical Use of Magic, which was under her name, of course) and three were on the shelves. When she located the ones on the shelves, she realized she had no idea how to check them. Two were history books and one was an upper-level philosophy text. She didn’t know enough about either subject to tell whether there was misleading information in them. She flipped through them quickly, checking to see if there were any mentions of magic, but didn’t see anything.
So over dinner—with Corrie, Edie, Roe, Annie, Rico, and Duncan—she brought up the topic. “I’ve been trying to check on the other books that were donated along with the Miranda Swick book, but I don’t know what I’m looking for,” she said. “We should have asked Professor Lal what she did to check for malevolent magic on the book.”
“We could try her office again after dinner,” said Corrie. “But if there wasn’t any malevolent magic on that book, don’t you think the other books would be fine?”
“Not if Mardalan is being more subtle than that,” said Roe. “The other books could just be a way to sneak in the magic book, or they could be part of her plan… whatever that is. To mess with us.”
“Exactly,” said Dawn. “Of course, part of the problem is that I don’t remember what all the books in that box were, and they weren’t entered into the system.”
“What do you mean?” said Edie. “Don’t they have to be available?”
Dawn nodded. “They’re all in the computer system—at least, I assume they are, because all the ones I checked on are. But whoever entered them didn’t include the date of donation or where they came from. So I can’t track them down by whether or not they were in that box. They’re just books in the library like any others.”
“Is that unusual?” Corrie asked. “Because that seems like just the sort of thing she would do to throw us off…”
“I’m not sure,” said Dawn. “I mean, Emi seemed to think it happens a lot, but it’s not supposed to. But I really don’t know how Mardalan would prevent us from entering things into the library computer system properly, or erase the information once it was in. I thought maybe Professor Lal had done it, to keep people from putting the books back together, but The Practical Use of Magic is still in the system.”
“We should definitely ask her after dinner, then,” said Corrie.
Edie nodded. “I’m in.”
“Count me out,” said Roe with a grimace. “I’ve barely written a paragraph on my rough draft and it’s due tomorrow. I have to get something down.”
Annie, Rico, and Duncan all had homework to do as well, so Dawn (after receiving a kiss for luck from Rico) and her two friends set off for Professor Lal’s office from the dining hall. The air smelled sharply of frost, and the clouds were thick; Dawn thought she would be surprised if it didn’t snow before morning.
The magic professors’ office hall was dark, and though they knocked on Professor Lal’s door anyway, they received no answer. They briefly considered asking the little old woman down the hall to look for her, but decided there wasn’t any reason to be in a hurry.
They trekked to the library after that. It was open until nine on Sundays, which gave them an hour to look. Dawn led Corrie and Edie to the history section and pointed out the two books that had come in the box with the magic book. “But maybe there’s nothing we can do about it if they are problematic,” she said.
“Nonsense,” said Corrie, pulling off her mittens and grinning. “We can do magic.”
“All we know is elemental magic,” said Dawn.
“That’s not true,” said Corrie. “We know trance magic. Well, you and I do. Edie can be our lookout.”
Edie laughed. “I guess that works for me.”
“You think we should go into trance and see if there’s any magic in the books?” Dawn asked.
“I assume there’s magic in the books,” said Corrie. “But maybe there will be more magic, or different magic, in the books from Mardalan.”
Dawn nodded. “Okay, I guess that makes sense.” She got down on the floor and settled into a cross-legged position for trance.”
“I’ll stand at the end of the aisle,” said Edie. She walked down to the end, looked both ways, and gave a thumbs up. “There’s no one else here.”
Dawn gave her a thumbs up back, glanced at Corrie, and took a deep breath, centering herself in preparation for trance.