These Private Complaints

~ Part 1 ~

It was a good day in the market, today. I managed to find the copy of Julianus Flavium's A Philosophical Treatise Upon Thralldom in the Stygian Government. It was hiding amongst a mass of other, less-readable papers that had fallen out of a Nihil just that morning.

To think they were going to recycle it! It is in perfect condition, in spite of having floated in the muck and wind for years. The paper is still firm but pliable. The writing is still crisp and clean.

It could have just come out of its place on the shelves if I didn't know any better. It is perfect. Absolutely perfect.

When I discovered the scroll, the seller was just about to sell it to someone else. Of course, they let me have it the moment I expressed interest. I have a bad reputation amongst the regulars, there. They think I am even more insane than my former Legional affiliation could account for. Perhaps they are right.

His fear did not stop the vendor from charging me twice what it was "worth" as scrap. I do not begrudge him that: it is a buyer's market, and such "relics," do pardon the phrase, are valuable finds to the right persons. It is unfortunate for him that such persons are few and far between.

It is also unfortunate that what he charged was all I had left. I may have to ask her for help again. I would rather not, but needs must.

Yes. Needs must.



On the way back to the library I passed the Memory Temple. They stared at me in silence as I walked by.

Of course, they always stare, given their talents. And thank Fate they are so easily identified for what they are.

They know that I know. They know.

And they do not dare speak to me, nor of me within earshot. They know what will happen if they do. Oh yes.

You see, they fear these hands. These hands have done so many things, in life and in death. Some of them are things I do not want to remember.

But all of them are things that I will never forget -




One of my regular Patrons came in. He was only here for a few minutes, though. Perhaps he read my impatience to be back about my work. Perhaps he fled before I might snap at him.

Why do I always act like they are intrusions? I am grateful both for their custom and their presence. And sometimes I am grateful for their donations, too...

But those who bring books are few and far inbetween. Most can only read, for they have nothing to contribute. Nothing but a validation of my work.

Most of my patrons are people like myself, though not quite like myself. They are scholars and academics of the old order: former Legionaries of one rank or another. Some of them I know from before. Some of them I met only after what happened.

These days they must work in other capacities. What was once forbidden is now almost compulsory, given the conditions outside. Some of them have been worn down and embarrassed by this turn of fate. Others have never been so free, dead or alive.

But they all come to the library, sooner or later. Sometimes to research. Sometimes to read. Sometimes to weep.

And never to talk.

Oh, we speak. We even converse. They are willing to be that polite, at least.

They do not dare to be directly rude, given all that I have done. Not like the eyes in the street. Not like the laughing mouths.

But as we talk I am very aware of where their eyes do not go. The places where they will not look. The subject they will not bring up.

They do their best to avoid seeing those stains. It is as if they fear they might come to life. They might leap from my hands to their face. Sucking red stains. Devouring bloody holes...

And when they go, I know they do not think of me fondly. In their eyes I am only an extension of this place. An outgrowth of its own will to survive. Viscera in the shape of a librarian.

But I am grateful for their being here at all. It makes me feel as though I am doing something good, for once. However secondary they think I am to the effort, I am doing something real and true, here.

For once I am more than just my hands.



Of all the patrons I have, there is only one who treats me like an equal. He is the one who brings me my best donations. And he is also insane.

I did not know him from before. He was based in Oxford, running half of the Legion, there. And while he probably should have made it up to the Isle of Sorrows for one thing or another, he never came into London.

We met well after the Outbreak, when the winds had died down enough for us to come out of our Maelstrom Shelters. He heard stories of the "crazy lady" who was rebuilding the Great Library of Stygia, one rescued volume at a time.

And so he came to me, one day, bearing Echoes Across the Shroud. in his mottled, stained hands. He handed it over, and said "I believe, madam, that this is meant for you."

In life I had never met a man I did not want to castrate and kill. And even in death, with their anatomy no longer so much as a threat, it always took me time to see a man as something more than a predator.

But something about his smile made me pause. And I took the book from his hands with gratitude. Love, even.

Since then we have only become close aquaintances. I have no idea of what his name is. I do not know the first thing about him true self. All I know is that we share two things: the same Legion, and the same love of the written word.

In fact, I cannot even remember what he looks like once he leaves the building. It all comes back to me when he returns. But a few minutes after he is gone the memory disappears like a dream.

I do not even know where he finds these books. He says that when he is not here, with me, he is "far away." But he does not elaborate further.

And I, grateful, do not push him.



I don't trust him, she wants me to say: I never have and I never will. All men are the same.

I would agree with her, there. But there are times that I am not certain he is a man. Though, now that he is not here, I cannot say why that is.

He will betray us, girl, she says: You just watch. You just-



Another group of so-called Renegades just ran past with the winds, screaming like cats in heat. Some of them I have seen here before, tempting me to anger. I am certain it was them.

And again they shouted such rude things. Angry words. Terrible names.

It is all their fault, really. The people in the street who call me insane. The buyers and the sellers. The sneering eyes with no face and mouths with no eyes.

They tell me that I am a fool. They say that there is no point in accumulating all these records, anymore. The Hierarchy is over. The Isle of Sorrows is over. Stygia itself is over. What is the point?

On a good day, I can take a deep breath and give them every reason under the dead sun why. Sometimes I can even convince them. Sometimes I cannot.

But on a day like today, even having found the scroll, I cannot even convince myself.

Today, once again, I know that I really am just wasting my time, here. What is the point of records hardly anyone will read? What is the purpose of a library hardly anyone will use?

I know that I am foolish. I know that this is foolishness. I know this. I know.

And yet, after I put my find from this morning on the shelves, I spent several hours carefully going through the cache of Post-Tertium soulforging records from the Emerald Legion, again. I am still looking to see if there is anything else there, hidden in the pages. And when I am done writing these private complaints, I will go right back to looking.

So it would seem that I do not have the strength of purpose to do anything else with the rest of my death.

It would seem that I have dug another grave.



I went out to clear my head after that last entry. That was a mistake.

A gang of young fools was in the library when I returned. It was the same so-called Renegades that had run by earlier. And they were intent on theft, or worse.

Once more, they said ugly things as I interrupted their attempts to wreck my labors. They called me ugly names as I chased them around the burned shell. They laughed as they ran out into the storm, now barking like dogs.

That is the third time this week. I think this library is being used as some kind of foolish initiation. I think they are being urged to anger me into doing something truly insane.

I can only hope she is here the next time it happens. And I hope this time she leaves at least one of them able to talk...

No, she says: We rip them all to pieces is what we do. We tear their cocks off and choke them with one another's. And then we leave their pieces outside, hanging in the wind for the Spectres to eat.

And now that I think better of it I agree. For I have looked to my shelves, once more. And I almost wept when I saw, once more, what they could have done.

They were so close to crashing down those shelves. The very shelves that once sat in the far, left corner of the first floor of the Great Library of Stygia.

Then, they were almost worthless. We used them to shelve things we did not yet have a place for.

Now they are the only original shelves that remain. All else is no more. Flotsam and jetsam on the Tempest's tides.

Now they are all I have. And they hold the best of the original books that I have been able to rescue. The Man of Many Faces. Economy and Power in Stygia. Echoes Across the Shroud. Several volumes of the Annals of the Dead...

Priceless treasures, one and all. And all those books, rescued from the Maelstrom over the years by disparate hands, could have been crushed and broken. All ruined. Destroyed in an instant!

Damn their foolishness. And damn them all for falling prey to such foolishness. What did they think they would accomplish?

Do they not know what I am doing here? Do they not know who I am?

I think not. They could not. They only know me as the crazy lady in the burned Haunt. The one who plays at being a librarian...

But they do not know who I once was. What I once did.

They have no idea how many times I found documents for high-ranking Legionaries with no time to search for themselves. They do not know that I repaired crumbled holdings, or created new ones when the oldest of things could no longer be maintained.

Would they mock these hands that have poured over ancient books and scrolls? Could those dogs even fathom that I dealt, every day, with things that only those with the most special of permissions could even glance at? The Soulbook of the Legions? The Book of Death? The -



Don't think of it, girl, she says: Don't even say its name. It's gone now - lost to the Void.

Just let it go, girl. Let it be.

I should. I must. I need to.

And needs must.



"What did they think they would accomplish?" I wrote that earlier, in foolish anger.

There are days when I must ask the same of myself. But I have answered my own question. My search has borne fruit.

I found a personal correspondence between two Emerald Overlords, folded over and stuck between two pages of one of the soulforging books. It is short and perfunctory, discussing the last meeting with the Anacreon. And it does not seem to be of much interest.

But it may be of some use to someone else, at another time. And so it, too, is treasure of a sort. And I have discovered it.

Perhaps I was being too harsh with myself, earlier. Too reedy. Surely this is a good thing that I do with these hands, now? Surely I am doing something far more good and important than before.

Back then, I was just tending the Great Library of Stygia. Now I am recreating it, tome by tome, thanks to luck and the kindness of others.

I do serve a need. I am doing something worthwhile.

And I see that my favorite patron is coming into the library. I remember him once more. And I thank Fate for whatever he has brought me.




Dear Fate, no. Why has this happened? Why?

Why did he...




I must remain calm. I must. I will write and make myself calm. I must.

She says I told you we couldn't trust him, but you didn't listen, did you? And now look what happened, you stupid bitch. Now just look what happened.

Is she right? Did we trust the wrong person all these years? He seemed to want to help: genuinely so. But now I am no longer certain.

He came this afternoon as he said he would. And once more the memory of what he looked like came in with him. It filled my mind in time with his eyes.

And even though he is now gone (For good, I hope) I remember thinking how handsome he was. That I can remember. I just cannot remember what about him was so comely (His cock, probably. You were always so fucking stupid.)

"I have something for you, madam," he said. From under the folds of his clothing he brought out a book. He beamed and handed it over, as he had given over so many others.

But I screamed. I screamed and I stepped back, putting my hands over my eyes. I did not want to see this. I never wanted to see it ever, ever again.

It had been decades since I had seen it, but there was no mistaking it for any other book. The soulsteel cover was still screaming its title. The pages were still twitching at the edges. The moans of the unjustly-imprisoned were still seeping out of its edges.

It was the Imprimatur, here before me.

It was the book of the condemned.