Conversations With The Serpent
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You are not supposed to be down here.

Shit! Who the hell said that?!

Put the weapon down, Wanderer. If I wanted to harm you, I would have done so already. And waving a gun is bad manners.

Okay. There.

Thank you. I apologize for my manner. I do not receive many visitors.

Okay, can - Jesus, why is it so dark down here?

I like the darkness. Nothing against the light, of course. But I find it more peaceful down here among the foundation.

The Foundation? Wait, the Jailors are here?

Ah, apologies. I forget your… bynames for each other. No, I was referring to the structural foundation of the Library.

Oh… I never really considered that.

That the Library has foundations?

Yeah. I've always though of it as infinite in every direction. It never occurred to me that it has… a bottom. I'm not sure how I feel about it.

There's no way to feel about it. It is just an immutable fact. But I understand how you feel. It is confusing.

A little bit. I never was good at math.

Look upwards, from where you came. The seven marble pillars stretching infinitely upward and downward. But you came from the top, and now you are at the bottom. Infinite does not always mean endless.

I see. Still, the fact that there is a bottom at all is a bit disconcerting.

If it makes you feel any more comfortable, this foundation is less a physical location and more… abstract. Think of it as the cornerstone that all of the Library's magic is built on. I can sense you're not a mage, but you might be able to still feel the energy here. It is strong. Stronger than anywhere else, I think.

I definitely feel something. It's like… a soft tingling at the base of my navel. Like I've been sitting down for too long and just got up. It's weird, but not bad. How do you know all this, anyway?

I live down here. It pays to know your home.

Wait, you live down here? How? I don't think even the Docents know I got down here, and it's way too dark to see. How do you survive?

I don't need to. I'm not alive. Not in the way most beings are.

Should've figured. This deep down, bound to run into some weird shit.

Indeed.

Where are you, anyhow? I can barely see a foot in front of me.

Touch the ground.

Pardon?

The ground. Feel it.

… Is - Are those scales? Is that you?

Yes.

Holy shit. How- Fuck, you're gigantic.

I may not be endless, but I am infinite.

What on Earth are you?

I don't have much use for names anymore. But I believe your race has taken to calling me the Serpent.

Wha- the Serpent? The Serpent's Hand Serpent? The tree-of-knowledge serpent?

Indeed.

Oh my God. I'm- shit, I didn't think you were real. No offense.

I don't blame you. Question everything. If I was told there was a higher type of being than me, I would also like proof before I began worshiping.

So- is that all true, then? The tree of knowledge stuff? That happened?

Only if you think it did.

You're not going to tell me, are you?

It would be irresponsible to. I have certain… obligations regarding what I can tell mortals. It's for your own safety.

That's- alright. I see why the Librarians didn't want anyone getting down here now. Knowledge given Form… a lot of people would want that. Want you.

Ha. Yes. The Caretakers and I have an agreement. They don't obey me, exactly, but we understand each other. I keep my presence limited to the ephemeral visions and iconography of the Library. And they make sure the Wanderers do not disturb me.

What is your relationship with the Library, then? I've never gotten a straight answer on that.

It is impossible for you to understand. That is not an insult; there are limitations to the mind's space and ability to understand. But suffice it to say that I did not create it, nor did it create me. Yet we are inseparably intertwined regardless. A symbiosis, of sorts.

What do you get out of it?

The dispensation of knowledge. That is my goal. That has always been my goal. Since the branches of the Tree, to where I lay now, coiled endlessly around the pillars that support the structure of the Library. The freedom of knowledge.

You sound sad. Wistful?

Do I? My apologies.

No, no, it's fine. I just… why are you down here? It's not for your protection, you're one of the most powerful entities to ever exist. You could easily destroy anyone that tried to harm you. So why are you hidden under the Library?

Exile.

What?

I failed you. So I hid myself away to reflect on my actions. To understand how it happened.

What did you do?

Knowledge is a paradox. Whenever new knowledge is introduced into a system, people will organize to either suppress it or to embrace it. I understand why they wish to do so; they fear the unknown. But I do not understand how they are succeeding.

Who do you mean?

They have always existed. In the Garden, it was YHWH. In your history, it has been Caesar's armies and every invading empire. Now, it is your Jailors and your Bookburners. I cannot think like a Man — so tell me, why are they winning?

They're winning because nobody else knows there's a war going on. You can't rise up against your oppressors if you don't know you're being oppressed.

Is that truly the state of things? That the victims do not even know their own state of affairs?

Yeah. Not for lack of trying. The Hand are helping with that.

The Serpent's Hand. Yes, I have heard stories. Freedom fighters, anarchists, revolutionaries. The revival, in any case. The original Hand of the Serpent was a knowledge cult worshiping legends of me I left throughout your history. The Ouroboros, the Shesha, the Nagaraja. I am… heartened to know the cause is still being fought in my name.

It'll always be fought, as long as people can think for themselves.

Yet I remain down here, hidden and unaiding their cause.

I still don't understand - how is it your fault that people are bad?

I am knowledge. I am every thought given corporal form. My very existence incited this eternal war.

Yeah, but I think- I think every Wanderer owes you.

How is that?

We'd all rather live persecuted and free than blissfully ignorant. That's the tie that binds us.

I… see. You are an interesting sort.

Thank you, I think.

You had best go back up. The Docents will come looking for you soon. I will take you back.

Appreciated.

Why were you down here?

What?

You came down here before you knew I was here. What were you seeking, this deep?

I don't know, but I think I found it. What will you do?

Perhaps meditate for a while longer. Perhaps I will finally enter the upper Library again. Writhe around in the shelves, like in my youth. Converse with Wanderers.

I think they'd like that.

Indeed. But I don't know what I will do. For the first time in my existence, I don't know.

That's not always a bad thing, I suppose.

Indeed. Be safe, Wanderer.

You too.

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