Wesley still dreamed of the World Before. Dreams that were so bright and loud that when he woke reality seemed drained of life and colour. In his more depressed moments he often would find himself wondering if there really had been a Before, or if he'd always been in this grey world of deprivation and struggle, and his dreams merely a sign that he was finally going insane.
When those moods came on him, it was the books that got him through. Their words and pictures, even their very presence gave proof that there had been a Before, full of light and brightness and people who not only valued books and knowledge, but honoured them. Oh he knew the World Before had had its fair share of problems as well, that it hadn't been perfect. The books told him that as well. But it didn't matter. He'd barely been more than a child when the Burning had happened, but he remembered enough to know that even with all of its problems it had been better than things were now.
Finding this place, this library had been like finding a piece of his dreams made solid. A place full of books, full of knowledge, in a world where both were swiftly disappearing, destroyed like the Old World had been, out of fear and anger.
For Wesley it had been like coming home. He had no idea who or what had originally erected the wards around this place, but between what he remembered from childhood lessons and what he was able to find in the books inside, he quickly learned how to maintain them. And, more importantly, he learned how to connect to their power. That way, whenever someone touched the wards, he would receive all the information they collected.
And he would know if anyone made it by them.
That was what woke him up that night, from a dream full of colour and music and the smell of buttered popcorn so real he could swear the taste lingered on his tongue as he snapped back to consciousness.
Someone... some thing had breached the wards.
Reaching for his glasses as he sat up, Wesley tried to sort out the impressions the magic had carried to him. The intruder was male and old, far older than a human could have been. Demon then. Although there was something of violence clinging to him, the primary emotions the wards carried were curiosity and wariness.
Wesley wasn't quite sure what to make of it all. The last time the wards had been breached it had been a small gang of humans, gone feral in this new world. They had wanted only to kill and destroy -- not only Wesley, but more importantly the books. Wesley had managed to kill them all, but not without cost to himself.
Idlely he ran a finger along the scar on the left side of his throat. It had taken a very long time to heal, and to this day his voice didn't sound the way it had before. But it had been worth it. He had saved the books.
But he'd learned from that encounter as well, acquiring and becoming proficient with more distance weapons, so if -- when -- it happened again, he would be able to dispatch any intruders without getting in close enough for them to injure him.
He reached for his favourite weapon now -- an old double barrelled shotgun that he had found and carefully brought back to working order. It was, as he always kept it, already loaded with his special bullets.
The wards had left Wesley with a sense of the other's presence and he used that to lead him to where the demon was.
The demon looked human. Tall, and well built, wearing a long black trench coat, over more black clothes, he had dark hair and pale skin -- Ah. Vampire, Wesley guessed.
The vampire was standing with his eyes closed, an open book in his hands, running his fingers over the page like it was a lover. The expression on his face only made the lover comparison all the stronger. All that awe and feeling over simply touching a book.
It was what made Wesley decide to not shoot first, but to give the vampire a chance to convince him to not shoot at all. He cocked the gun, knowing the sound it made would alert the vampire to his presence. Sure enough the demon's eyes flew open and he spun to face Wesley, expression startled.
Still holding the gun with a steady aim, Wesley demanded, "You have ten seconds to give me a reason why I shouldn't put a bullet in your heart."
For the count of several heartbeats, the vampire merely looked at him. Then finally, he replied in what would have been a conversational tone back when pleasant conversations were more common, "Well, for one thing, I'm not human. Getting shot would hurt, but it wouldn't stop me. Just make me cranky."
It wasn't an attack, but it wasn't exactly a reassuring response either. Still not sure which way to go, Wesley decided to enlighten the intruder about the exact nature of the threat he was facing. "I daresay getting shot with these bullets would leave you more than cranky. See, I've made provisions for attacks by demons as well as humans. The bullets my gun is loaded with all contain silver-" He watched the demon's face carefully but saw no reaction, "-and wood."
Now that got a reaction -- not much of one, just a slight flicker of the eyes down to the gun barrel and then back up -- but it was enough to confirm for Wesley that his species designation was correct.
"All right," the vampire admitted. "I'll admit that might slow me down more than I thought it would. But only if you can shoot me before I take that gun away from you."
Now that had more the definite feel of a threat. "I can assure you I can," Wesley replied, tensing his trigger finger watching for even the hint of movement that would mean the vampire was attacking. "Now I will ask you again -- what is your business here?"
The vampire stared at him for a long moment; Wesley could see his gaze moving from the gun to Wesley's face and back again. Finally, it seemed the vampire made a decision because his posture relaxed and when he spoke, his voice was friendlier. "My business here is what anyone's business in a library should be. I'm looking for some books."
"And what would you be intending to do with these books?" Wesley asked, the stark truth of the fate of most other librarires forcing the question. Book raids for the precise purpose of having fuel for a book burning ritual were distressingly common.
The ghost of a smile touched the vampire's mouth for a brief second as he answered. "Read them." He paused and added more grudgingly, "And take them somewhere for others to read as well. But to be used as they were intended -- to pass on the knowledge they contain."
It could be a lie. But Wesley remembered the look that had been on the vampire's face when he'd discovered him. His gut was telling him it was the truth. "I believe you," he admitted, lowering the shotgun. "But I'm still not certain however if I can let you take books away from this place. Where were you planning on taking them?"
"Now that," the vampire said with another faint smile, "is a very long story."
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