In the Stacks

The British Library

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom, and one of the world's largest libraries in terms of total number of items. The library is a major research library, holding over 150 million items from every country in the world, in virtually all known languages and in many formats, both print and digital: books, manuscripts, journals, newspapers, magazines, sound and music recordings, videos, play-scripts, patents, databases, maps, stamps, prints, drawings. The Library's collections include around 14 million books, along with substantial holdings of manuscripts and historical items dating back as far as 2000 BC. (Thank you,


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Alexandra Sean Zoe

The library is quieter on a Tuesday evening than it is at other times during the week, a fact that once surprised Zoe. She figures though that Tuesdays are the days after the mad crunch of Monday, when people are busy trying to get ahead before the week's end, the time for sporting practices and dance lessons that people don't find in a library. Which is good for her. Zoe likes the quiet stillness that can be found when there isn't the constant rustle of people and paper. Saturdays, being even quieter than Tuesdays, are her preferred time to work because she can actually get something done, but Tuesday evenings are the next best thing. She's got a backlog in special collections, and it's not that she doesn't enjoy helping patrons and graduate students and her fellow librarians, but there just aren't enough hours in the week to get it all done.

Zoe grabs the fax that came across her desk — what was it? — two, three days ago. Not urgent, but an inquiry about several volumes that are in the special reference section. It'll take some time to dig them out. She's managed to unearth one of them by pure luck. There's an organization system to that section, but some of these books are old, some obscure and it takes careful time and patience to scour through it all. Also, not the sort of books that are handed over to just anyone. These requests are special, and Zoe's the only one who handles them.

Yes, she does realize that she is probably a little too controlling and protective of her books, but that's her job.


"Him." Dr. Sean Watson puts a finger upon an entry in a somewhat aged book, though it's hardly as old as it's compatriots on the shelf. It's a book of Egyptian history, though more 'modern', as in, no mummies. "Ismail."

Checking the page, and the paragraphs before and after, he nods at the words written therein. His voice is canted low, in deference to his surroundings, "He reached out to Europe in the mid 1860s, and the nationalists didn't like it. It was under him that we got shares of the new Suez Canal." Which makes it logical as to why, now, there's the extended hand, discorporeal though it may be.

"Need to find out more on him. Maybe give us a clue."


Dr. Alexandra Wainwright leans on the table near Dr. Watson, peering over his shoulder at the text he points to. A slow nod of her blonde head, and she glances sidelong at him. "Makes sense," she agrees, her own voice pitched low. She purses her lips slightly. "It would help if we had some idea of what other supernatural forces were at work in the region at the time, too. I'm certain there's a connection between here, there, now, and then. But, I think has to do with more than simple artefacts. An artefact, no matter how powerful, isn't enough — on its own — to make creatures like von Richter walk on eggshells."

Not that she needs to say that to the man. Still… thinking out loud does help, sometimes.

She rakes a hand through her blonde hair and rubs at the back of her neck. "I'm vaguely reminded of a parchment I heard of when I was researching one of my own special projects." In this case, the translation of the term 'special projects' is 'personal spell books'. "'Suez' jogged my memory… but not enough. Still, I think there's something to it."


Fax in hand, although she doesn't really need it, having memorized the titles and topics on the list, Zoe heads to the proper section. She hears voices before she gets there, low soft whispers that only tell her someone is there, but not clear enough for her to understand what they are discussing. Rounding the corner she sees the pair at one of the tables, a stack of books before them. They're an attractive couple and Zoe finds it sweet that they are either working together or one is helping the other with research.

She hesitates, and gives a glance at the fax. Zoe has time yet to get the books filled and they might need help. Zoe changes her path, making certain to come around where they'll see her and not be surprised by a stranger approaching them. "Hello, is there anything I can help you find?"


"Suez.. um.." Sean cants his head sideways to look at his compatriot. "Disraeli… Parliament was mad because he went behind their backs to buy the shares…" He's digging as much as he can about the history, unaided by supernatural forces.

He looks back down at the book, lips pressing tightly together. "English and French joined the Egyptian ministries, much to the nationalists'… dismay."

Nodding, he exhales in a soft chuff and looks up again. "Erik might know people who… knew what was going on, but the problem there is that the Vampires are in the minority." And everyone knows the attitude there. "So, eye-witnesses, potentially, but—"

As the librarian comes 'round the corner, Sean straightens a little more. Librarians are never unwelcome, as far as the archaeologist is concerned. "Ah… yes… and if you don't mind, maybe pick your brains." Not literally, of course. "Primary sources for 19th century international relations."


Alex purses her lips faintly, following Sean's line of investigation. "Yeah, I don't think asking him for a reminiscence is going to be all that productive." Funny, that.

As the librarian approaches, however, she straightens and gives the woman an open, pleasant smile. No matter what the reasons for their research, the topic itself — 19th century international relations — is fairly benign. But, it's more Sean's area of expertise, than hers.

Ask her about the medical history of the era, however, and she's on slightly firmer footing. Otherwise, the best she can draw on are more esoteric and occult ruminations handed down through her family for generations, or scrounged from long hours of personal research in places far less-hospitable than this.


Zoe's surprised by the clarity and quick response the man gives to her inquiry. It isn't that most people don't know what they're looking for, but usually they dither a bit, telling her about their research and the like, what they don't want her to find or what they've already found.

She returns the woman's smile with one of her own, and it stays in place as her attention flickers back to the seated man. "That's quite a range and a scope to work with. It gives us all the known and colonized world as well as about a century with which to work. However, I believe I can provide a very good starting point."

She dares to glance down at the scattered books, and picks up one that either was passed over or hadn't been opened yet. A quick and deft flip, ever so conscientious of the pages there, and she places the open book on the stack before him. "This is about the only chapter in this book that will do you any good at all. Piers was a bore who mostly wrote history from his own particular warped and skewed viewpoint and to please the uni board who provided his scholarship at the time."

Looking away from the book, Zoe waves a hand toward a section of books. "The rest are over here, if you'll follow me?"


Sean sucks in an audible breath between teeth and nods, "Yeah, I know… but right now, we're just looking for hints. Something that'll push us in a direction." Not fishing, per se, but not quite locked on yet either. Any clue to what people were doing at the time, and personal recounts may give a hint as to what sort of role the supernatural were playing. They've grown adept in discerning what could possibly be happening behind scenes based upon obvious occurrences, but…


His brows raise, and with a glance over towards Alex, he rises to his feet and shuffles over to where the pages are open. "Okay… that actually might be useful," is given slowly in response. "Alex… take a look there," okay, not medical, but he trusts her intuition.

Sean checks the direction the librarian is offering, and his tones are light, "Okay… lead on."


Alex gives Sean a nod and a light smile to both him and the librarian, picking up the book she indicated and starting to scan down the text. "Do you know with which university he was associated?" she asks Zoe, before getting too far into the text. Working in the university system as much as they do, both she and Sean know damned well that what pleases the university board often has a direct bearing on how steeped that particular institution is in the occult. Especially before this modern period of so-called open dialogue.


Zoe feels successful already. The couple might only be starting on a brand new path of research, but clearly she's given them something helpful. It's easy to see that they're both pleased and Zoe's always happy to have a job well done.

They're a relaxed pair and their easy openness is a refreshing change from some of the stuffy and overwrought academics she often has to deal with.

"Oxford, actually," Zoe answers without hesitation. She knows her books and this particular section very well.

She begins to move toward the area they need, pausing briefly to look behind her and ascertain they are following. There, floating in the aisle in a wispy, willowy figure. It's not a true ghost, more of a impression left behind and though Zoe has seen it many times, it still sometimes takes her by surprise. She tracks it briefly and then swivels her attention back to the shelves, knowing that the patrons will assume she was merely scanning the shelves. "This would be where to start. There are also some personal journals and correspondence on the bottom two shelves."


Oh, Sean can do 'stuffy and overwrought academic' with ease; he just doesn't feel the need to bring a portion of his arsenal to bear. He's with a friend and compatriot (and some might say 'partner in crime'), and it's the 'real' Dr. Watson that is currently delving ever deeper into research.

"Ah…" is the response to the naming of the University, twisting around to check on Alex's response. Yet another avenue of investigation. And Charlie thinks this is boring?!

Following the librarian into the stacks, Sean looks at the titles as he moves. If there's a spirit here, it's not a type that causes him pause; imprinted memories and emotions are different than spirits tied to items. "We're looking at 19th century English colonialism… specifically Africa. France as well." Which will encompass… most if not all of North Africa. "I know it's a broad topic, but…" he smiles a little self-consciously, "…no stranger to all-nighters…" For weeks.


Piers tome in hand, Alex follows the other pair more slowly. Her blue eyes dance across the open pages, scanning swiftly for key words that may tip them one way or the other. "Hmn," she breathes softly, missing the woman's pause to 'scan the shelves'. "Oxford, eh?" Actually, that's quite informative. It puts a completely different slant on the material than if it were Cambridge or King's Cross. More Magicians at Oxford. They prefer what she tends to think of as the 'ritualized' and 'academic' approach to the occult. That, or an ecclesiastical approach. Hardly a surprise, given their position in the history of English education.

"That would put Piers as a rival to… Bruchner, wouldn't it?"

She glances up, now, vaguely catching up on what Sean is saying to Zoe.


The man's smile is charming and self-deprecating, and his eyes are… Are they truly that blue?

Zoe has to force herself to not stare and bring her mind back to both replay his words and process what his companion is saying. Still, it doesn't stop her from taking a darting glance at his hands before giving herself a private scolding and reminder that she is a professional and at work.

"Yes," Zoe nods in answer to the woman's question. "The rivalry between Piers and Bruchner was quite well known. There are records of many of their livelier… er, debates… in the halls, in the garden, in the showers." Zoe gives a genuine laugh, always amused at the bits of history that can be picked up here and there, that sometimes get glossed over but make historical figures a bit more real.

"Hmm." Now Zoe pauses for a beat, tapping a single finger to her lips. Her eyes scan the shelves and she takes a few more steps down the aisle. She stops a few paces down, and reaches up, stretching a bit on her toes to grab another volume. "Bruchner actually had some very strong opinions on English colonialism, and also a more… shall we say fringe view of certain elements? I'm not sure if that's something you and your wife would be interested in?" Zoe presents the thin journal with a helpful smile.


Sean wears no jewelry, or at least nothing obvious; ergo, no wedding ring, no class ring, no family crested ring…

His pace is slowing, and pausing in front of a title, his hand hovers over the spine. Reaching out, he pulls the title off the shelf, making note as to where it belongs once he's done checking it. He pulls his gaze from the worn leather cover, his brows rising; "I like fringe views. Tells me a great deal more than just… dry reports."

It isn't immediate that Sean corrects the impression that he and Alex are married — they get that a lot. Unless, of course, Charlie is also in the room. He does, however, finally address that with a shake of his head as he looks back at the title, his thumb pulling on the cover to open it. He's got cotton gloves, and his study won't begin until they're on. "We're not.. ah.. she's not my wife."

Reaching out for the thin volume, he hands it back to Alex; he's got the thicker tome in hand. "Records… as in…" No, wouldn't be 'recording' records. "Is there anything written… their debates, that is?" It'd replay… over and over. Surely there's a transcript? "Or is that it?"


Alex, however, does wear jewellery. Tasteful earrings, a nice pendant, a watch. And… oh… yeah. The Ring. The new ring. The one she doesn't flash around — mainly because she's not that kind of girl. But, Zoe's error actually does cause Alex's cheeks to colour involuntarily, self-consciously.

At the moment, of course, the hand upon which she wears this new ring, supports the spine of the heavy Peirs tome. Her left hand flexes and she snaps the book closed on the index finger of her right hand to keep the book from dropping. "Ah," she says shortly — in a manner, actually, that echoes Sean's mannerisms when he's the one caught off-guard, rather than her. "No. We're not not…" Her voice trails off and she lets Sean's words stand for both of them.

She comes forward, now, slipping the tome Sean hands her beneath the Piers tome, which she raises again and reopens to the pertinent passage. "Actually, the more off-the-wall the contemporary interpretations you can find, the better." Segue. Yes. Segues are wonderful. Change that topic.


Again, it's hard to not just gaze into the man's eyes. Zoe's not a foolish schoolgirl and she's certainly well beyond walking around with her head in the clouds, but there is something about this man's earnestness and ease that keeps catching her attention. She shifts her attention to another slender book, and points to a few more on the shelves just to have something else to do. "This one, and these here as well. If you're looking for something that isn't dry, then these certainly fill that niche."

Zoe catches the flash of the lights off the woman's hand as she closes the book. The fumbling confuses Zoe, but the woman's words echo the man's and her assumption stands as corrected. The pair isn't together but the woman is… seeing someone? Zoe loves a good puzzle, and knows that her imagination can run wild, but now isn't the time or place to start second guessing about patrons. Although, sometimes it is fun.

She debates offering up the sort of 'fringe' ideas that are presented in the book; she knows too well that serious academics are quick to disregard that which can't be explained by science. Some of the talk of spiritualism and magic and supernatural influences doesn't get much study or consideration.

But then, Zoe's given an opening and she simply can't resist. She can always use the usual excuse, that it's something of a fanciful curiosity and habit of hers, rather than the fact that she was raised with a general knowledge of the existence of the arcane and the supernatural. Given that her imaginary mates weren't always imaginary, it's really not so surprising.

"Bruchner actually held a very firm and strong belief in the more… mystical and inexplicable forces of nature. He fancied himself an expert in arcane lore and a good bit of supernatural mythology. He believed that the French colonization of North Africa gave France an advantage in certain areas." There, she offers up the bait and is quite curious to see if they bite. Zoe tries to betray nothing of her feelings and beliefs on the subject, but she's been told that her eyes often give far too much away.


Sean is infinitely distractable when it comes to dangling bits of research and potential avenues that studies can travel. As a result, it makes him just a little, well, oblivious to the actual human side, known as interaction, and so things that others would notice, he doesn't, necessarily.

Not always a bad thing. Of course, it does mean that clue by fours do need to be wielded on occasion.

Now, however, is neither the time nor the place. Bait is dangled, and Sean takes it, hook, line and sinker.

"'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.'" is uttered softly, bright blue eyes flitting from one title to the next, and on to the next. He nods to the information, adding, "That's exactly why the UK felt they had to get involved with the Suez. It was made quite clear to Disraeli that the French were being courted…" And heaven forbid that France gained a footing?

"Now, about that arcane — I'm not willing to leave any possibilities untouched." His gaze moves to the librarian, their guide into the pages of the past and lingers, his voice low out of respect for the location, "I'm not as close minded as some academics."

Nodding his agreement with Alex, he twists around to check on his partner, and shifts such that she can make her way up and beside him. The more eyes the better. "I'm even good with off-the-wall historical interpretations, too."


Alex comes to join the two of them, now, books still in hand, braced against her ribs. Her head cants slightly to one side. "What about tabloids of the day?" she asks after a moment's thought. After all, several of the British gossip rags date back to the mid-19th century and earlier. "Have you got an archive of them that might have something?"

She gives Sean a glance and a half shrug as if to say, Well, it's worth a shot…


Zoe nods enthusiastically, warming to the pair of researchers and the topic at hand. "The tabloids and underground papers will be on film image. They're too fragile to be accessed and handled by numerous human hands. We can call those up at one of the terminals."

She pauses then, and nods, continuing in the earlier vein of the not-so-academic leanings. "Bruchner believed, as did a few — a very small few — of his colleagues that a dangerous allegiance was forming between…" Zoe trails off, and gives a slight, bemused shake of her head. "You have to remember that this is all rather out and far afield, yes? But Bruchner and a few of his colleagues strongly believed in the existence of Vampires and Sorcerers."

What does Zoe believe? She's not volunteering unless she's asked, and perhaps not even then.


"Oh, oh yes.." With a rather quick nod of his head, Sean is quick to assure Zoe that it is all taken with that pound of salt, incredible actor that he is. Uh huh… "Still, even if the fellow is something of a loon, I wouldn't mind seeing what he had to say. Maybe shine a little lucidity in there, right? The ravings of a madman, sometimes you can find those gems."

Snapping a free set of fingers, Sean begins to take a step backwards. Newspapers of the day is yet another avenue, and not necessarily one that he'd forgotten, certainly — after all, it is 'primary source'. It's simply… another avenue. He's not too proud to use librarians.

"Absolutely it's worth a shot." He gives his partner a tight-lipped, thin smile, nodding. Soon after, he twists back around, patting the tomes that he's both been given and has opportunity-grabbed. "I think we've got enough for the moment, with the books you've so kindly given us, and the directions… Miss…" Now, he's fishing, simply because he's got a feeling that she's a resource he's going to want to tap again.


Alex nods as well, to the information the other woman gives. "I can sift through the fiches, if you want," she suggests to Sean. "Let you do the cross-referencing with this lot?" It's not like she's not used to looking at minute things on a little screen, after all.

As consummate an actor as Sean, in situations like this, Alex also suppresses the little klaxon that goes off in her head when the librarian mentions a Vampire-Sorcerer alliance. The tabloids might actually be a good source of information on that, though not nearly so much as Bruchner.

Of course, British tabloids have always been different than American tabloids. They jump on 'real' news as quickly as they do 'sensationalism'. And pay very well for either. So, they're sometimes far more informative than their American counterparts, since the gossip, sleaze, and important events are are displayed side by side for anyone to see and connect as they will.


"I can get you started on those, certainly," Zoe tells the woman. She's glad to have been of help, and clearly something in what she's told them has given them an avenue — or two, or three — to explore.

The prompting for her name brings a light smile to Zoe's face. "It's Wright. Ms Wright." Technically it's still Mrs., even though she's had all the business cards and name plates changed over, but she's never gone back to her maiden name out of respect for her late husband, Harry — though for the first time she has the fleeting thought that maybe she should. She thinks Harry would likely understand.

"Those books should definitely be a good starting point for you, I think. And if you need anything else," Zoe places her fingers lightly on his sleeve, for longer than polite but not long enough to be completely awkward and creepy. She's woefully out of practice anyway and she doesn't know what his friend will think about it either. She can feel her face warm slightly as she continues, "Feel free to find me. My office is just on the other side of the shelves, first door on the right."


"Sounds like a plan," is given in response. "Go swim with the fiches, and I'll start on this." Yes, stupid joke, but…

"And thank you, Ms Wright." Gone are the days, the thought is added ruefully (as well as fleetingly), where it was a straight Miss or Mrs. "You've been incredibly helpful."

The touch on his sleeve almost demands that he introduce himself, particularly after she gives directions as to where her office lies. "I'm Dr. Watson… and no, absolutely no relation." How many jokes has he put up with over that? More, actually, than 'Shaun of the Dead'. "We really do appreciate it. I think we've got a great starting point." And, soon enough, they'll be wading hip-deep into 'modern' Egyptian history. Fun, fun?


"Dr. Wainwright," Alex adds, by way of introduction. "And, yes," she agrees with Sean, "I think we do. Thank you very much, Ms Wright. You've been more helpful than we could have hoped."

She does note how the woman's fingers linger on Sean's arm. Her blue eyes dance at the sight and she can't help but smile. Apparently, it doesn't bother her in the least. Sean has that effect on women, she's noticed. And, yet, her weakness is apparently a cranky American ex-pat with a penchant for fishing and ridiculous cartoons.

Go figure.


"Pleased to meet you." There's genuine warmth to the words, and Zoe even gives a soft laugh as Dr. Watson jokes about his name. She's certain he's probably gotten that a lot over the years. As for the rest, she's not sure if he's not receptive or simply missed her subtle gesture. Probably a little too subtle, Zo. It figures, and it is her typical luck.

"I'll get those fiche for you, then, Dr. Wainwright," Zoe says. "It should only take me a few minutes."

With a polite inclination of her head, she turns and starts moving away from them. She's not five feet away when she grows aware that she's no longer and alone, the hairs on her neck prickling and coolness wrapping around her from the right side. As much as she is loathe to do it, Zoe glances to her side, and swallows a groan. The figure there — not quite opaque but not completely translucent either, quirks an eyebrow.

Zoe snaps her head forward and keeps walking. Ignore it and it will go away. It's never happened before and she knows that today will probably not be her lucky day, but a girl can dream, right?


Hey, Sean thought his joke was pretty good, if not a bit on the corny side. The moment Zoe begins to step away, he turns to Alex, his brows rising in anticipation. "This might actually get us somewh—"

The hair on the back of his neck twitch a little; that familiar feeling, though he's not 'built' to be able to pin-point exact locations, it's more like a 'disturbance in the force'.

Twisting around mid-statement, he searches, probably vainly, for that which twinged. No 'sign' of it, however, and he exhales softly, turning back around to finish his thought with Alex. "Hope he's not expecting you back any time soon."


"Hardly," is Alexandra's soft reply. She gives Sean a bit of a wry smile and piles the Piers tome atop the others in his arms, splaying the fingers of her left hand over the top of them.

"But, speaking of him… there's something we've been wanting to tell you…"

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