"I hear you're looking for a spell."
"I'm looking for a lot of spells," Michael said shortly, and slammed yet another useless book shut. A hand appeared to stop him from pushing the book away--a pale hand that belonged to an equally pale young man.
One of the vampires. Michael had seen him around, but he didn't know his name.
"I've heard you're looking for one in particular," the vampire said. "If that's true, you won't find it here."
"I've gathered that," Michael said, and pushed his chair back from the table. The vampire didn't move when he stood up to leave, but by the time he turned around, the vampire was in front of him--appearing so silently that Michael inadvertently yelped.
A sour smile twisted the vampire's lips. "If you aren't quiet, someone will hear you."
It was late. Or early, depending on how you looked at the clock. All students were supposed to be in bed, but Michael had grown used to the library late at night--or early in the morning--before anyone else was up and about. He'd thought that he was the only one who knew about the passageway from the storage rooms, but evidently he had been wrong.
"What do you want?" he asked, more angry than frightened. Those vampires who were students at Darkbrook had to abide by the rules like anyone else; just like the werewolves and dragons--and others--they had to at least pretend to be civilized.
"I thought you might need my help," the vampire said. "A spell for a spell, so to speak. An even trade." He tucked one strand of his pale blond hair behind his ear--a very human gesture--and waited.
"All the spells I have can be found in this library," Michael said suspiciously. Had someone seen his experiment? Had they--
"Not all of them, or so I've heard," the vampire murmured. "A spell for a spell. What do you say, Michael? I'll give you what you want if you give me what I want. An even trade."
"And what do I want?" Michael asked, still wary. If his teachers had discovered what he had done, they wouldn't send a vampire to ferret out his confession. Would they? "What is your name, and how do I know I can trust you?"
"I believe you're looking for something along the lines of this," the vampire said, and held out a small scrap of paper, badly burned along one edge, but legible enough for Michael to understand the gist of the spell as soon as he took it. His breath caught in his throat.
"But I--" His hand spasmed, crushing the ancient parchment as if it were nothing but garbage. "Where did you get this?"
"My name is Erialas," the vampire said. "And if you meet me in the cellars tomorrow--at midnight--I'll bring the rest of the spell." He smiled, and Michael couldn't help but notice his fangs. "If, of course, you bring yours to trade."
It was obvious that Erialas already knew the subject of Michael's spell. And it was also obvious that he hadn't been nearly as circumspect as he had thought; someone had seen him, perhaps even Erialas himself. Perhaps worse.
"I haven't finished testing it," Michael said. "I've only--"
"I know," Erialas said, interrupting him. "It doesn't matter. Do you want the remainder of that spell or not?"
"You have an entire spell to summon demons," Michael said, just to make sure they were both on the same page.
Erialas hesitated. "It's actually in my father's library. But he won't miss it. I can promise you that." Some dark emotion passed across his face at that proclamation, and Michael almost asked him why his father would not miss such a dangerous spell. "If you bring your spell, I will bring mine. It's as simple as that."
Against his better judgment, Michael found himself nodding in agreement. Sure, he might find what he was looking for at Darkbrook, but he'd been searching for six long months with nothing to show for it but a new admiration for librarians. Time was running out. He had to choose the spell he would use for his final project in less than two weeks, and he wanted to impress everyone. As it was, he'd have barely enough time to perfect the spell before his time was up.
"I'll meet you tomorrow at midnight, then," he said. "And I'll bring my spell."
Erialas smiled and this time, Michael realized it was a genuine smile, tinged with relief and a certain amount of satisfaction. "Thank you," he said, and vanished too quickly for Michael to track.
For a moment, Michael stood in the darkness of the library, both stunned and slightly disbelieving that his search had finally ended. He smoothed the fragile paper beneath his fingers and read the scrap of handwritten spell again.
He had no doubt that this was what he'd been searching for. But why--why would a vampire want a spell to resurrect the dead?