Dear valued Patron,
Since you have been a valued member of our illustrious venture, we would like to cordially invite you to join our Library's Book Club! If you are interested in reading, literature and interacting with our other members, we would very much like you to attend. If you wish to join, please be in the Function Room, located in the fifth Atria on the first Monday of the month. We very much hope to see you there!
The Library's Function Room
"…The way the Bard portrays Quixote as a sad, confused old man is a wonderful interpretation. A half-mad, child-like individual who seems to exist purely to evoke pity from the reader." Fynphar Swiftblade, Top Spy to The King of Laryyd and Rakish Dandy, wittered, his right hand gesturing wildly while he held the bound play in his left. "Obviously, this is meant to act as a parallel and a hint to the future awaiting fair Cardenio as he descends into madness by the end of the tale!"
"PAH!" came a loud disagreement from the other end of the table; it was punctuated with a heavy sharp thud which bounced everyone's drinks and the plate of biscuits at least a foot in the air. The owner of the voice continued to bellow his counterpoint.
"If this Cardenio wanted us to pity the Don, why didn't he just show us the man being slaughtered? I would prefer if the Don fell in battle, as all great men do, to an army of blood-thirsty and mobile windmills!"
There was an awkward silence as everyone else in the Book Club stared at the large, shirtless, blood-red man. The burly on-again, off-again Apocalyptic Horseman sat back in his seat, placing his sword back under the table sheepishly. Fynphar Swiftblade, Top Spy to The King of Laryyd and Rakish Dandy, waited until the excitement died down and continued his contribution to the Book Club's discussion of Cardenio.
"A far superior and, in my humble opinion, apt title for the play would be: 'The Lamentable Tragedy of Cardenio And The Wizened And Senile, Don Quixote.'"
This was cut off by Caissa. "Now, that's hardly fair. So far you're the only one in here who has a problem with Don Quixote's inclusion. But the tale is called Cardenio, who was a minor character in the story of Don Quixote. If you think that Shakespeare, through Cardenio's narration, is attempting to portray Quixote as being more deranged than Cardenio, I'd suggest you're reading from a different edition!"
"We did all pick up the one from the section where Cardenio was completed AND published, did we not?" Fynphar Swiftblade asked the other members. A murmur of agreement and confirmation rose. "Well in that case, my little Nymph, I would assume that I'm correct in my interpretation!"
Caissa leaned forward. "Firstly, I'm a Minor Goddess. I'm not a Nymph anymore, and secondly, it's still your own personal opinion."
"I liked the way Quixote was presented!" A hand shot up from one corner of the table. Dave Crawley sat forward. "I thought Shakespeare wrote Don Quixote as an example of how, even in old age, there's still that will to triumph in the face of adversity. You know, like fighting until the last man stands or something?"
"But, he's so old!" Fynphar Swiftblade, Top Spy to The King of Laryyd and Rakish Dandy, protested.
"That doesn't mean he should give up! Determination doesn't stop with age, you know."
"I WISH TO HEAR MORE OF THE WALKING WINDMILLS!" declared Kuul'yar of The Furthest Reaches, her unfathomable form quivering beneath the large humanoid shape she used when attending the Book Club.
Before anyone could respond, the Library shuddered, the tables rattled, chairs practically bounced across the floors and there was an unearthly, if you could call it that, deep moan from the farthest, most dark and hidden places of the Library. The other members of the Book Club turned towards War. "I swear, that wasn't me!" He said, holding up his hands. A burst of bright green flame erupted in front of him. More the green fire appeared before the others. Throughout the Library, countless patrons and staff watched as the emerald flames spoke with authority.
"There has been a theft from the archives!" the fire spoke. "One of Our Great Catalogues is missing! It was not taken for study nor by any of the Library's staff, therefore we must assume a patron is the culprit. Until the thief has been discovered, the Library shall remain locked and the Ways closed. To all our patrons we wish to apologise for the inconvenience; however, to the thief hearing this message: your punishment shall be most severe."
The flames vanished and the world of the Library became silent. For a moment. Then panic set in - all throughout the Library, patrons, first-time visitors and even the oldest of old members began to scream and demand release. Shortly after the first cries for freedom were sounded, violence began to occur. Chairs, tables, books and even the people began to throw themselves at the blocked off Ways, trying in vain to pry them open. The sounds of early Cabin Fever could be heard all the way to the Book Club's room. As the group watched the door with anticipation, Fynphar broke the tension. "Shall we call this discussion chaired for now?"
"So, should we wait and see what happens?" asked Dave, taking a Jaffa Cake off the table.
"It would probably be for the best." Caissa conjured a chessboard to the table complete with pieces. "Anyone fancy a quick game while this all sorts itself out?"
Fynphar approached the door, his hand lightly gripping the rapier-blade sheathed at his side. "Alas, my dear. I cannot. I'm much too interested in what may lie beyond this door to play games. And anyway, Chess has been banned in Laryyd after the Prince lost his head in a championship match against the Kingdom's best player." With that, he threw the door wide and peered into the darkness.
"It's all gone!" he cried. "The corridor's gone!"
There was an exasperated sigh as Dave walked in front of Fynphar and pulled a lighter out of his pocket. The small aura of light illuminated about an inch or two in front of him. The walls were old and sandy, great columns rose from the ground to some sort of ceiling shrouded in darkness.
"Where the bloody hell are we?"
As Fynphar and Dave gingerly explored the new world, the other members crowded round the door. One wall illuminated was covered in fresh, bright Hieroglyphs.
"Is this language?" Fynphar queried, running a finely-manicured finger along the nearest pictograph of a bird.
"Yeah," Dave said, studying the wall, "old language." He thought to himself for a moment and added, "To me, anyway!"
"Well, what does it say?"
"I don't know, I don't read ancient Egyptian!"
"What about that?"
"That's Latin, I only know one phrase and a couple of other bits."
"Ilegitimi Non Carborandum."
Fynphar thought for a moment. "Is that really Latin?"
Caissa strode past their argument, took Dave's lighter and skimmed over the Latin sign. "We're in the Library's archives," she said, tossing him back the lighter.
A few moments later, the Book Club were heading further into the archives, searching through ancient scrolls and texts for an exit. Suddenly, Dave stopped "Oi." He looked around. "Did anyone else hear that?"
The others stopped and listened. "I HEAR NOTHING!" Kuul'yar shouted at the top of her human lungs.
Everyone held their collective breath. War turned his sword, ready for an attack, the bright red-orange flame licking into the darkness. "Oh, please let it be an adversary…" he muttered.
"There, again!" Dave pointed over by a shelf of old, cobweb covered tomes.
"Over there!" War roared, raised his sword and boldly leapt behind the shelf. A moment and several loud, hard thuds and War dragged a thin, wiry man in a black mask and body suit back out with him. "I found him quivering like a frightened pup behind the shelf!"
"Who is he?"
"And what's in his bag?" Dave grabbed the wiry man's backpack and began to explore its contents. His face suddenly fell. "Oh shit…"
"What's wrong, Dave?" Caissa looked over his shoulder and into the bag, she was also struck with a look of abject horror. "Is that…?"
Dave slowly pulled his hand out of the backpack, he brought out a large pristine hardback the thickness of a phonebook. "It's the missing Catalogue…"
A minute later, the wiry man awoke. "Oh. Bollocks…" He looked around him. He was surrounded by the Book Club, Dave still holding the Catalogue.
"I'm afraid I'm going have to ask that you give that back!" He held out his hand, as if expecting the tome to be handed over. "I really must insist. My employers aren't expecting failure."
His clipped tones and Oxford accent instantly made everyone look at Dave. He stared back at them. "What? You don't expect me to know him, do you? England's not that small!"
"Again, I must ask for that back, I was paid a great deal of money to procure it!"
"By who?" Dave asked, hugging the catalogue closer to his chest.
"By people who are better equipped to deal with it than you, you grubby little Northerner!" The man struggled to escape War's grip.
Dave stared at the thief and began to open his messenger bag. "I think we'll hand this back to the Librarians…"
As Dave began to deposit the Catalogue, an ancient bandaged hand flopped onto Fynphar's shoulder.
"In the King's Name!" Fynphar spun round and saw the hand's owner. It looked like a Docent, only one which appeared to have been hobbled together long ago. Instead of a lantern, it carried an old dusty torch bearing a similar flame to the one announcing the theft. Where its mouth should have been wasn't a clean smooth area of skin, it was more like the creature had been sculpted from clay and the mouth simply smeared into nothing. Stitches and faded scars could be seen just under the brown tattered robes covering the thing.
War grinned and threw the wiry man aside. "Ah ha! Finally something worthy of my presence!"
As he held out his sword for battle, the wiry man snatched the Catalogue out of Dave's hand, and ducked past the mummified Docent and into the darkness!
"The fuck do we do?!" Dave shouted.
War and Fynphar were too busy to hear and Kuul'yar wasn't even paying attention. Fynphar's blade swiftly cut through the Docent mummy's flesh and he neatly sliced the torch-wielding hand off. He tossed it to Caissa. "My dear! You and the others go after that thief! War and I shall remain here and provide a defence!"
"Not a chance, Mr. Swiftblade. We all go or no one does!"
"I must insist!"
"There's more coming!" Dave shouted, pointing at the approaching green flames.
"War, you get in front, Kuul'yar, Dave and I will follow and I want you at the back, Fynphar!" Caissa pointed off in the direction of the wiry man's escape. She bent down and picked up his backpack. "We go that way and we catch this creep!"
War laughed and pressed ahead, his flaming red sword slicing through the undead Docents with increasing ease. The others followed on quickly behind him.
Deeper Into The Archives
The Book Club pressed on, Caissa took the relative calm and began to sift through the wiry man's backpack. "It looks like our friend is an expert at this…" She pulled out a couple of items to illustrate her point. Rope, several small maps of various parts of the Library and others. "I think he's been planning this for a while."
Dave reached into the bottom of the bag. "What's this?" He pulled out what appeared to be a business card. "MC&D. What's that?" Shrugs and other similar responses greeted him.
"Either way, " Caissa said, putting the equipment back, "we can't let him take that Catalogue."
"My dear, we may have a problem…" Fynphar said, staring into the darkness behind them. "Could David please confirm for me?"
Dave squinted past Fynpahr and saw a wave of green beginning to grow in the distance. Not just at ground level, he saw similar illumination beginning to creep over the columns and stacks. These were quicker than the ones on the ground. "Oh, we are fucked…"
"What is it?"
"It looks like a lot of them Docent-mummy-things! And they might be Pages." Dave indicated the lights on the columns.
"Might a strategic withdrawal be in order?" Fynphar said, creeping back.
The Book Club all charged ahead, away from the oncoming army of Docent-mummies. All except Kuul'yar. "I DO NOT RUN FROM ROTTING FLESHLINGS!" she blared, standing her ground.
"You'll die though!" Caissa argued.
"I DO NOT DIE!" Kuul'yar turned back to the rest of the Book Club. "RUN NOW, FLESHIES! I WILL SEE YOU AT THE NEXT MEETING!"
And with that she turned back to the approaching wave of undead beings and screamed. Only she didn't. Her jaw flopped open, much wider than any jaw should ever drop and the noise coming from the black pit of Kuul'yar's maw was like a horrific constant drone; the walls shook and the columns trembled. The Book Club by this point were gone, as a colour more dark and foreboding than the absence of light around her spewed forth and towards the Docents, knocking them back and putting out their lights, and the drone continued.
As the Book Club ran, leaving Kuul'yar and her voice behind, War bashed past any stray Docent-mummies and they continued on. After they were a significant distance away, they stopped and listened as Kuul'yar's cry was silenced.
"Is she dead?" Fynphar inquired.
"Regardless," War said, looking solemn, "we must press on. Kuul'yar has helped us gain an advantage and we must use it."
As they trekked further into the archives, the Book Club heard scuffling up ahead. It was the thief! "Why did I leave the damn bag behind?…" he was muttering to himself and scrabbling his hand across the wall next to him, his other still clutching the Catalogue. The Club ducked behind a nearby shelf.
"What do we do?" Dave whispered.
"Give me a minute, I'm thinking!" Caissa rubbed her head and felt something moving in the bag. She slowly peered in, there was a small brass, spider-like trinket trying to climb out. She quickly zipped the bag up and held it. "That must be how he's trying to get back… wherever!"
"There are other ways into the Library?"
"There's all sorts!" she said.
"Enough of this!" War stood up and strode out behind the wiry man. "THIEF! Turn and face me with dignity!" War held his sword high as the man looked at him incredulously. War grinned and charged, sword leading.
The man quickly side-stepped and dug his fingers into a point above War's ribs. The Horseman gasped and spun, quickly falling to his knees. His sword clattered to the floor.
"You're built like me, so therefore, you must have the same pressure points as us!"
"I am the Horseman known as WAR! You cannot defeat me!"
"And yet I just did!" The man picked up War's sword and studied it. "I wonder how much extra I can get for this? An actual Weapon of War!" He then eyed War warily. "We'll probably be able to clean the blood off…"
Back behind the shelf, Fynphar looked on in dismay, "He's going to kill him! Can he even do that?" Caissa pinched the bridge of her nose. "Just shush, I'm thinking!"
She blinked and turned to Dave. "Didn't you say you could make your illustrations come off the page?"
"What, you mean a canvas drop? Yeah…" He pulled out an A5 sketchbook from his bag and flipped to a page. "But how am I supposed to get out there?"
"Leave that to me!" She closed her eyes and touched Dave's shoulder. There was a flash of black and white and in an instant, the downed figure of War appeared!
"What!?" War looked around, "How—?" Caissa silenced him and pointed around the corner.
In War's place was Dave! The wiry man stared in disbelief. "What the-?"
Without a word Dave held the sketchbook above him and the wiry man and watched. From Dave's perspective, it looked like a cartoon anvil, drawn by Dave earlier, was above the wiry man's head. He watched as the anvil dropped from the blank page and into reality, landing heavily on the wiry man's leg with a loud crash!
"WHAT THE FUCK!?" he screamed in pain. The wiry man looked at the anvil crushing his leg. "How did you do that?!"
Dave stood up and flipped the book shut. "Canvas Drop," he said simply.
"Ah, Christ! That fucking hurts!" the thief whined.
Caissa and the others left their hiding place. War was slightly shaky from the attack. "Well fought, Dave Crawley," he said, reaching down for his sword. "I am proud to stand with you. And you, Caissa. Your quick thinking and skills were also a great help!"
She stood there and smiled shyly. "Oh, it was nothing beyond what I normally do. Epic battles fought on black and white boards and all that…"
"I do beg your pardon, but how are we to escape the Archives? I'm afraid I couldn't see the exit anywhere on our travels."
Caissa picked up the Catalogue and studied it for a moment (like the rest of the Book Club she had begun to ignore the thief's cursing and screaming). "Dave, could you draw a door to the main desk?"
"Is that wise?"
"That's not what I was asking."
"Well, yeah, that's how I enter the Library! I'm more concerned about what the Librarians are going to do when they see us with the missing Catalogue." Dave was hesitant.
"Dave, if we explain what happened and return the Catalogue and this man's bag. We should be okay."
"But what about Kuul'yar?"
"Kuul'yar…" Caissa sighed. "I don't know, alright? She was already thousands of years old when I met her…"
Dave shook his head and pulled out a larger sketchbook from his bag. He flipped through until he found a page which had an elaborately designed door with a sign reading Main Hall written on it. "Can everyone turn around please? This won't work otherwise…"
When the others faced away, Dave held the book up to his face and again from his perspective, it looked like the door could be on the wall, still made of pencil and ink lines. Dave reached for the handle and turned it. The illustrated door clicked and slowly swung open. As the door got further open, he could see through the other side, The Main Hall of the Library. Dave took the book away from his view and saw the door on the wall in reality. "Right," he said, taking a deep breath. "Let's go!"
The Book Club all passed through the door and into the Library.
The Main Desk
There was chaos! Patrons of all kinds were shouting abuse and threats at the staff, who paid no attention. The only movement came when the Book Club appeared. The heads of the Archivists snapped up in their direction.
"You have the missing Catalogue," came a unanimous collection of voices. Caissa held her head up high and walked proudly towards the Main Desk. "We found the man responsible," she said, placing the book and the thief's backpack on the desk by the nearest Archivist. "He was trying to escape through the Ancient Archives."
"That would explain all the commotion down there."
"The man you're looking for has his leg trapped under a large anvil made of permanent black marker."
"An anvil?" the Archivist said.
Caissa nodded, then shot a dirty look at Dave.
The Archivist studied the Catalogue and placed it under the desk. "Thank you for returning it. The Library owes you a great deal of gratitude."
"You believe us?" Caissa said, surprised.
"Your fellow member informed us of the situation when she manifested." The Archivist nodded to a figure in the crowd.
"I DO NOT DIE!" Kuul'yar, clothes tattered, covered in scratches and bleeding ichor, stepped forward.
Elation spread across Caissa's face and she wrapped her arms around her friend. "I don't care how, I'm just glad you're okay!"
"You are all part of the Book Club, are you not?" inquired the Archivist.
There was a slow but positive response from the Club.
"The Library, as always, chooses well, it seems…"