J. Edward Tremlett

~ Part 3 ~

It has been a day and a night since I last wrote. This time has been spent contemplating my last thought - that and pointedly ignoring the few fools who weren't witness to the last demonstration of my wrath. I would go repeat the lesson, but I should marshal my energies for what needs to be done now.

I think I have a plan. It scares me, and badly, but-

It does not scare me sister, she snorts in my ear: I think it's the best idea you've had in ages. Why are we wasting time? Let's do it! Now!

But no, I have to wait. I have to be sure of what I am doing, and why-

You're stalling, again! You're letting your fears of letting go dominate you, again. Fear of punishment...

No, not punishment. I fear failure. I fear getting hip-deep into the water before realizing I'd misjudged the current, and being swept out to sea-

Ha! She spits, now: You are afraid, girl. And it's just like you to do this! Just as you finally get a glimpse - even a glimmer - of what needs to be done, you shy away from it like a schoolgirl.

There is a difference between fear and prudence.

Yes, but in you they are one in the same. It's what they taught you to be, at the home. It's what they made you be, after it all happened-


That's enough of that. Enough, and more than enough. Enough of her insults and her insinuations.

Enough of her.

I am not being cowardly or afraid. I have a plan - an outcome - but I need to think on the how of it. I have the why, yes, but not all of the how.

The why is simple: there is no reason, now that the Empire is over, that its dissident voices should be silenced and made available only to a few.

The library exists so that all could come within and read what it has to offer. That book - the Imprimatur - can only be accessed by someone who wears a soulhelmet. And so far as I have been able to discover, the helmets were lost when the Onyx Tower exploded, and not a one has resurfaced.

My patrons, so eager to see the accursed book they feared, may be in for a disappointment when they encounter blank pages! But I suspect they desire to simply see the book: to hold it in their hands, and laugh at how so small a thing had them so frightened for so long.

But the words of treason are there - locked within those pages. So much bad history of our now-departed empire. So many dissenting voices crushed into paper. So many bad memories, all locked away...

There is no point in them being locked away any further. I will be the key that lets them out.


"So many bad memories, all locked away..."

I keep coming back to that sentence. I pace the floor and try to think and I keep coming back to my journal, and that page, and that sentence. It is a fixation - an unhealthy one, at that.

And yet I keep coming back to it, time and again.

Perhaps I am behaving irrationally. Perhaps my desire to free the dissidents from the pages of the Imprimatur is a result of another desire, on my part, to free myself of the burden I carry.

Last night, when I slumbered, I dreamed I set fire to this library. All my work, and all my time, blazed with balefire before my eyes. And I danced in the smoldering wreckage, laughing at the utter devastation I had wrought.

I awoke in horror, shivering at the thought that I could entertain such a dark, self-denying fantasy. How could my mind even suggest such a course of action? After all the work I have done - all I have sacrificed, all I have suffered - to make this a reality?

But as I went through my day, devising my plan and grappling with the possible consequences of it, I began to wonder if it wasn't a cry for freedom. I wonder if my dedication isn't just another kind of servitude.

I wonder if I'm not a prisoner, myself.

And I wonder if I'm not the one holding the key.


So much has just happened! I cannot believe the things I have been told...

First things first: I had a visitor, today - one who was quite adamant about getting into the library. In fact, he opened a Nihil right in front of my desk and clambered out, still bleeding and torn from the Storms on the other side. I was so shocked that I hesitated to destroy him, just for a moment, and that moment bought him his life.

He said his name was Aeron: a Harbinger of some renown, he claimed, though I must confess I'd have no way of knowing if he spoke truly or not. He has taken the form of a bird-man so as to better navigate the Storms, and he reminds me of a Garuda: the mythical bird-men of Asia. He is also battle-hardened and proofed against the winds, so that telling where he ends and his array of relics begins is not quite so easy, even for myself.

"My lady, I bid you let me speak" were his first words: "I would warn you against accepting gifts from strangers, regardless of past dealings and pleasant times."

Of course, this left him wide open for my response: "Would that warning not account for the likes of those who appear unwanted in my library?"

"Yes, but please, do not kill the messenger" he asked, smiling: "If you would prefer I stood outside and screamed my warning from a safe distance, I will gladly do so. But I would rather you were told these things in confidence, where none can see, or hear."

That made sense, and I allowed him to proceed - at least for the moment.

"I bring word of treachery" he said: "There is a monster in human shape who is known to you, I believe. He is the one who visits you, and brings bounty culled from the Void, and though you may highly appreciate his gifts to your library you can never truly recall his face... until he appears before you once more."

That bought the Harbinger much more time, as you might well expect. "Go on" I said, "Please."

"This creature is a Spectre" he revealed: "A thing of the Void. He acts on behalf of some terrible monster, down in the Labyrinth's depths were no one can enter without going mad, and becoming the very thing they seek to destroy, or discover. I do not know why he has ensnared you in his master's plan, or even what the exact shape of it is... only that he was to give you a... a certain book?"

He stumbled over the word, so I provided it: "The Imprimatur?"

"Yes, my lady. That book."

"Well, you are late in your warning, Harbinger" I chided: "The creature has already come and gone, and left that very book with me."

This took him seriously aback, and between stutters and stumbles he asked me what day it was. When I told him the day, and then the month, he almost shrieked in horror: the Storms had swallowed him so completely that he had lost almost two weeks within the Tempest, though it seemed to be only a few hours since he left his employer.

Speaking of which, I questioned him concerning who paid him to deliver the message. He would not answer, though, for he had strict instructions not to reveal that one's identity. I could respect that, of course, but I would not be denied this information, and pressed him further.

"But my lady" he said, "surely you must see by my eyes that I am a Harbinger! Just as we do not abandon those in trouble, so do we not betray our confidences. Such trust is near and dear to our hearts."

What could I say? I reached into his chest and pulled it out, holding it smoking and wet in my hand as he flopped on the floor, wracked with pain.

"I think I shall keep it here against your return, Harbinger" I told him: "I have a task for you. You will go to see your employer, and tell him I want to meet him here. When he comes, you shall have your missing portion returned to you. Until then..."

I squeezed it, and he cried in pain. That was more than sufficient to send him on his way through the Tempest... not to mention convert his speech back into something less genteel, and more profane.

I think you should have taken his head, she says: We do not need him. He has delivered us a useful message, and confirmed my suspicions. Why trouble ourselves further?

Because we need to know what his employer knows. If I am, indeed, the pawn of some creature from the Void, I should know why. And you know this, dear sister. We shall not be used ever again.

So we will use others, instead?

If need be, yes. This has only redoubled my desire to see this plan through.

Then let there be no more hesitation! You have the means and the understanding to make this work. When will we do it?


And now she has fallen silent, waiting for an answer.

I think it is time I provided it - tonight.



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