These Private Complaints

~ Part 2 ~

It has been a day since my betrayal. In that time I have admitted no one to my library - even long-time patrons have been asked to come back at another time. I just couldn't let them see me like that, even if all they might have done was ask me where a particular volume was.

I couldn't let them see me destroyed.

We should take this out on something, girl, she told me, constantly: Go up the road to the memory temple and kill them. No one would miss a few of that lot.

And no, they wouldn't. Much like my lot, they are neither trusted nor loved in this city...

But, no. I have learned from harsh experience that allowing her free reign at times like this is extremely foolish. The last time... well, it took much doing on the part of my Legion to keep me from the forges. And though I need no longer fear those flames, I fear I might undo all the good I have done here...

{Oh, that's made her angry. The things she wants me to say, now!}

So no, I will not let her loose in this matter, as much as I might like to. I will stay here with my shock and my grief, and I will try to do something - anything - to deal with what I have been given.


'What I have been given...'

The Soulbook of the Legions was an amazing thing. And in spite of the gruesome way its pages were made, I couldn't help but be fascinated with the thought of what it represented: the story of Stygia, written from the flesh and memory of those who had been there to see it.

Reading it required a special helmet and a bewildering amount of official permissions. No one could just walk into the library and flip through its sighing, heavy pages: you had to have an amazing reason to even be in the room where it was kept, much less have access to it. And even then you could only read certain pages - ones relevant to your specific inquiry.

Of course, we all looked when we could. It was difficult to find the time to sneak into that room and read it, but when we could, we did. In fact, the Chief Librarian tacitly encouraged us to, and so long as we were not caught at it, all was well.

But that book...

It was there, in the case, with the other volumes of the Soulbook, but we didn't dare touch it. I didn't dare to look at it, for fear that punishment might be catching. And any time that I had to escort someone to that room - down the long, echoing basement hallway - and let them read the Imprimatur, I did not hand them the book, as I did the other volumes in the case. I merely unlocked the case, and let them draw the damned thing out, themselves.

I could not even bear to support the thing with my actions. Protocol be damned.

You see, all the pages in the Soulbook were made from those who, eager to lay aside the burden of death, allowed themselves to be made into living pages. They were carefully and lovingly rendered down into a thick, whispering page. And they would, when prompted from sleep, speak with their own voice of the things they had seen, and the events they had shaped.

It was considered a supreme privilege to be chosen for a page, and I can understand why. To be the official voice of a time and a place in Stygia's history? To be the ultimate authority concerning an event, or a chain of them?

What historian could ask for a better compliment than to be made that voice - that authority? And best of all was that fact that one did not have to have been a scholar, or historian, or even a writer to have been selected for the privilege. One simply had to have been there, to have given an accurate account of what took place, and to have accepted the honor that Charon, or his Deathlords, offered.

The Imprimatur, on the other hand, was not fashioned from the fortunate and the willing, but from the condemned...


I have lost my melancholy, thank Fate. Getting some of the rage of my betrayal out of me was therapeutic. Very therapeutic indeed.

{I do not know that the fool who insisted on barging in here while I was writing would agree. But I told him to leave, and he ignored me. See now the price to be paid! He should keep me in ink and other supplies for at least another month.}

We could have achieved better results with the Mnemoi up the street, girl, she spits in my ear, still hungry for more. And yes, perhaps we could have done...

But she will just have to be patient. There are other matters to concern myself with, now, such as what to do with the "gift" I have been given.

And what to do to the betraying monster who gave it to me.


If the Soulbook was a place for privilege and reward, the Imprimatur was a place for punishment and exile.

It was, perhaps, some gruesome form of humor on the Emperor's part to have dissidents, rebels and nay-sayers turned into pages of protest, rather than simply having them forged for their unorthodox views. Or did he, and his Deathlords, feel the need to gloat over defeated enemies? To listen to their criticisms and denials in secret, knowing that only an elect few, and their most trustworthy servants, would ever hear them again?

Whatever Charon's motives, the creation process was much the same. The condemned was molded into living paper, and set to whisper his heresy to whomever might read it, centuries hence. And then, only with a soul helmet - and the endless parade of permissions necessary to use it - would those private complaints be heard.

There were any number of people in that damned book. There were early advisors who fell out of favor, and servants who questioned their masters. There were critics of official policy, and deniers of official history. Those who "knew" the wrong things, and would not keep silent, and those who knew too much...

Of course, genuine traitors and dangerous rebels could be found in there as well. But their numbers were vastly outranked by those who were inconvenient, or lost their standing at a critical moment.

Indeed, the whole of the Imprimatur seemed nothing more than a calculated exercise in sadism. Its very existence proclaimed "watch what comes from your mouth, or you'll speak those words forever between the pages of this book."

And that was more than enough to keep the book a relatively slim volume, indeed.


That book now sits before me, here on this desk.

Some time ago I was terrified to think of its very existence - so much so that I almost lost control, and let her take up my burden for a time. And a day ago I was shocked into immense despair by its reappearance, here in this library.

And now that it lies before me - now that I have power over it - I am no longer frightened by it.

Indeed, I see that it is a small thing, and just a thing. It is no great and terrible monster, come to eat me alive. It is just like any other book in this library, in spite of its terrible origins.

So I am not frightened, anymore. In fact, I am somewhat amused by my earlier reactions. To think I was so terrified? So shocked?

But I am disgusted.

It is a blasphemy - an obscenity. I should burn it in balefire. I should tear it to pieces. I should take it to the nearest nihil I can find and throw it down into the darkness, praying all the while that it falls to the Void and is devoured.

I should do it. I could do it. There is nothing and no one to stop me, and I know where to find everything I could ever need to destroy this thing, once and for all.

And yet...

And yet it is as much a piece of history as any other, "questionable" tome that was in the Grand Library, or here in my own, forlorn echo of that great place. If I sought to destroy what I found abhorrent or wrong, then I would be no better than the people who made the Imprimatur in the first place.

In fact, I would be much worse. At least they preserved the dissent they found so wrong, however perversely! Would I now scatter those voices into the wind?

No. I cannot do it. I must not do it.

As much as it pains me, I must showcase the Imprimatur along with the rest of the books that I have here.

The name of the book means "Let it be written" I suppose I have to obey...


Word of what I had traveled faster than I thought it might. Before I came to announce to those stragglers outside my door that I would open tomorrow, I saw I had a mob of patrons there, all wanting to get in and see the Imprimatur.

I tried to look surprised, but there was no use in pretending. {Indeed, the only surprise is how it got out at all, and why they didn't demolish my pathetic barrier}

"I know why you are all here," I told them: "And I appreciate your interest. However, I have to think of the best way to catalogue the item. So it may be some time before it is ready for you, if ever."

The last bit had them in a near-frenzy: how could I, a mere librarian, deny them access to that book? Now that the Empire was gone, and no one could ever sentence them to the forges for sneaking a read at an age's worth of denied, suppressed history...

But I stood my ground, and brandished some of what yet remained of the earlier patron as sign that I would not be defied in my own library. His staring eyes were testament to the fact, and that quieted them down, a bit.

"As I said, come back tomorrow," I continued: "I may have answer for you at that time. Then again, I may not. Good day to you."

And in dots and droves, they slowly sloughed away from my door and went back out into the winds, disappointed.

I put the patron's head on my desk, with his eyes staring upon any who might come towards it. It makes for a useful paperweight, too, and I might mold it into something a little more comely when the need for sternness passes.

But for now, let them fear. It gives me time to think.


Can you believe it? The sheer, utter stupidity of those... those filthy creatures. Those betrayers!

While I was thinking - and using the day to straighten things up - a delegation from the Memory Temple came to me. They stood outside my door and beseeched me to hand over the book. And they did so... so that they might undo it.

They came to me! How dare they...

Oh, but they dare much, she says, still not sated: They would dare to crack your mind like an egg, and drink down all they found within, if you let down your guard. Just like the ones who sought to understand what you had done, so long ago. Just like those ones-

No. I will not think of that. I will not speak of it. It is over. It is past.

(She wishes to say more, here. I will not let her.)

I think what I did to the one that dared open her mouth to me, once I told them to be gone, will give them pause from such a foolish errand. Now I have two paperweights, and more than enough ink.

The worst thing is that in a way, they may be right. The Imprimatur was created from a series of ancient wrongs, and it is only correct that now that the Empire is over - its authority banished forever - that sentence should be reversed.

But if I were to destroy that book, and release those souls from their bondage, the knowledge they held would be lost forever. It would be like burning any other sole, surviving copy that I hold here. Such a thing is all but unthinkable.

And yet these are lives we speak of. Those pages were once Wraiths.

And yet, as I sit at a soulforged desk with two meaty paperweights upon it, I cannot claim to be sickened at the thought of where our handicrafts come from.

So no - I will not bend, no matter the morality of the thing. If I would remain true to my calling, the book must stay.

I just wish there was something I could do to right that wrong...


And perhaps - just perhaps - there is.