I am not the first human to hold the position. You should know this before I tell you anything else. The Durian Archives record a genealogy of librarians stretching back before the time of King Solomon. You mustn’t misunderstand this curious family tree; librarians are not related by blood, but by three common cords: an enduring passion for books, the will to keep great secrets, and a keen instinct for predicting the behavior of dragons. We have been, and always will be, those that guard the Spiral Staircase between two worlds—worlds that deny each other’s existence.

Hello, my name is Madame Lobelia.

I was eighteen when I applied for apprenticeship at the library and thirty when I took my oath as Head Librarian. It’s been eleven years since.

This means I know my job.

I know its value when things go right. I know its danger when things go wrong. I’ve seen it countless times, visitors descending the Spiral Staircase from the human world into the dragon world as though they’re on a sightseeing tour, as though nothing bad can happen. Let me be frank: bad things can happen. My job is not easy, nor is it always successful. No librarian has ever relinquished his or her keys to the Staircase with a clean record. You must understand this if you’re to keep coming here: Dragons don’t believe in you. In their library, you are consigned to non-existence. You have no heartbeat, no family, no future, no past. This philosophy makes them unable to see you, but they can sense you, and if they do, they won’t think you’re a human, but an unseen enemy. Follow the rules, I beg you. There are consequences for carelessness.

Regardless of the danger, I consider it a privilege to take groups of humans deep into the mountain to explore the library. Once a librarian takes the oath, he or she is bound to keep the Spiral Staircase open to human visitors, no matter the cost. Librarians are responsible for visitor safety, secrecy, and access to the library’s books and artifacts. More importantly, a Head Librarian is responsible for keeping up the Agreement. You don’t need to know the particulars of this document—not now. You only need to know it exists and that, because it exists, we’re able to walk the halls of dragons.

Please, take a look around you. You are standing in what is known as the Octagrim. Built in A.D. 947, and rebuilt in 1252 and again in 1530, it is the official antechamber for humans to enter the library. You may have noticed its mosaic ceiling depicting a dragon and a human exchanging gifts of gold. Archeologists debate over the age of this mosaic, as it seems to predate the chamber. Many say it’s pre-Roman and was brought here in the latter half of the tenth century. However, it isn’t the age of the mosaic, but its subject that’s intriguing. Man and dragon living in acknowledgment and even celebration of each other’s existence. This idea, it’s why I chose to become Head Librarian of the Library for Dragons. If I can bring these two worlds closer together, even by an inch, during my length of office, I may retire at the end of my life satisfied.

What about you then? Why are you here? While I may not know your personal reasons, I will give you two reasons that are outside your control. First, you’re human. You didn’t choose to be human, but you are. And being human means you have the ability to perceive—and influence—dragons. This is vital if you are to descend into the library. Second…well, all I will say now is you’ve been invited here for reasons that cannot be told to you, only discovered by you. Not all secrets should be revealed with words. Remember this.

I must take my leave. When next you enter the Octagrim be sure to—oh, that was a good jolt. Everyone remain calm, the ground is only shaking because more than one dragon flew through the Broad Tunnel just below us. The rocking should stop in a moment. This happens more often than you would—wait, it’s getting worse. And that’s the safety alarm. Everyone! Leave the chamber immediately.

Something’s gone wrong.

 

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