A Very Rounder Present for a Very Rounder 'Pede
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The Eighth Grand Archivist will turn one hundred years old today.

Within his nest, the Rounderpede clicks his mandibles; he has finished the latest addition to his collection. His appendages stretch in preparation for the upcoming Library work, and he extends from the gaping hole at the floor of his nest, reaching up the cylindrical bookshelf arrangement to place it near the highest points. His nest is massive — book piles reach from the floor to dozens of meters in the air, disorganized at first glance but meticulously placed for the Rounderpede's convenience. The book slides neatly into the shelf, as expected. As he prepares to lower himself to ground level, a rustling sound catches his attention from far below.

The Rounderpede's maw stretches and a loud roar emerges. Quickly, his body dashes along the sides of the nest, circling around its edge rapidly. As he approaches a 180-degree turn, he points his body downwards, shaking the shelves as he makes his sprint towards the noise. It's a tiny creature, only about two meters tall, and its features are vague at a distance. It seems untroubled by the angry Grand Archivist scuttling towards it at terrifying speeds, staying calm and maintained during the approach. Only when he is a few meters away does the Rounderpede realize what it is.

He stops, only three meters from the Page. It looks jovial, almost, its squat body seemingly jittery and tense, but not in fear. The Rounderpede squints at it, sighs, and tilts its massive head to the side.

"Why are you here? I thought I said that no one could enter unannounced."

The Page shifts slightly, as though it was a child caught stealing a cookie from the jar. The massive centipede realizes that, for whatever reason, it's holding an object behind its back, two of its six arms being used to support it. The insectoid begins to lift the mysterious object up and over its head, before bringing it back down with another pair of its arms in front of it.

In its hands, there is a single cardboard box, filled with various letters, scrolls, and other assortments of objects with seemingly no pattern.

The Page motions it towards the Rounderpede, who, confused, takes the object from its hands. Almost without delay, the Page shuffles back out of the Rounderpede's Nest, and down the unlit hallway it emerged from.

The Rounderpede sighs, and contorts its infinitely-lengthened body to a more comfortable position. Parts of his body scurry down the wall to a more relaxing position, while the front-most portion adjusts to be more aligned with the floor. He brings the box back to the center of the nest, and picked up one of the scraps of paper at random.

Thanks for keeping this place together, I don't know where I'd be without it.

-Ch.

…What?

The Rounderpede turns the paper over, and seeing nothing on the back, places it besides him on the floor. In confusion, he picks up the next letter — encased in a rusting metal pod with glass lining — and opens it. He begins to read.

– – – SEALED UTMOST – – –
– – – CHIEF ARCHIVAL EYES ONLY – – –
– – – PERSONAL CODE ␡͞͏̧͟͡⚯̵̡⪤̶͏͝ ͞͠▕̷̢ – – –

Sent: Archive Network Outlet ⠟̴̢̢͝͠ᛥ̷̀͢͜ʊ̶̛͝ ̨̛͘͝▗̴̧̛
Received: Archive Network Outlet 7722 (*Disused*)

My friend,

Did you know the Library had a pneumatic messaging system? It certainly caught me by surprise when I first learned of its existence. I’ve tried my best to keep the bulk of its network hidden, but I suppose it’s about time it saw the light of day again. As much as I’ve enjoyed my correspondence with fellow hideaways, you’re bound by duties far more stringent than mine – you’ll no doubt wish to reopen them, and in this endeavor you have my full support. Good things must come to an end, and revealing this secret is a small price to pay to send you well-wishes.

And, on that note: Congratulations, acclamations, and felicitations! Maturity is a strange time for the best of us, but you always wore your youth lightly and I daresay you’ve reached a milestone you were sorely owed. May the next leg of your journey (pun not intended) be rich, fulfilling, and happy above all else. You are a friend of the highest caliber, and I daresay that without your aid and abbetance I would not be the man I am today. By which, of course, I mean an alive one. Many happy returns!

Your partner in discovery,
H.S.E.
The architect of infamy.

– – – POSTSCRIPT – – –

Your suppression of the movements of certain hostile parties within the Library has not gone unnoticed. My ability to repay debts is limited, but enclosed in this capsule are selected notes from Randolph Tanniman’s Animals Which Ought Not Be, all known copies of which were, I believe, destroyed some centuries ago. For several creatures these notes are the only descriptions in existence, and I can think of no more suitable gift for such a lover of literature.

Much like Tanniman’s fate, your origin has heretofore been a mystery. In that spirit, I think you’ll find the section on the nesting habits of Scutigera circumtecta particularly illuminating. Happy birthday my friend.

Birthday! It was his birthday today! How did he forget that?

Straightening his posture, the Rounderpede opens the capsule delicately, and sure enough, finds the aforementioned notes. They're meticulously preserved. He marvels at them, and then decides that the joyreading must be saved for free time. The Rounderpede's mind flashes with ways to improve the decaying pneumatic messaging system, as his specialty is taking inactive parts of the Library and making them vibrant. Yet, as though compelled, he places the capsule down next to him, and grabs the next note from the pile.

It has not been overly long since I made my way to the Library, but you have already been tremendously helpful to me. While I admit that the circumstances of our first encounter was less than desirable, the interim has allowed me to calm down a great deal and really appreciate our encounters. I truly do apologize for making demands of you, it was utterly uncouth of me.

But, you handled the situation with grand aplomb, which gave me the time necessary to rectify the situation. You had every right to throw me out of the Library then and there, and I am grateful that you chose the route you did instead. Even if portions of my wardrobe are still "drying out". My staff assures me that the stains will eventually lift free from that particular set of robes, which I will also admit comes at a bit of a relief.

That being said, I intend to keep the accoutrements that you adorned me with, as a reminder that even immortal Priest-Scribes need to embrace humility wherever and however often it is required. I had to weave a stasis prayer around them, however. The smell was causing some of my younger associates to fall ill, though I doubt I will ever quite forget that particular aroma. Again, learning experience.

As a show of good faith, please find enclosed a selection of writings and tomes I've collected over the years. They've all been attributed directly to Khepri or to his priesthood. While you may not be particularly interested in the Rising Sun, you might find some amusement in Khepri himself. While it has been quite some time since I've had a chance to converse with any of his priesthood (even longer since I've spoken to him directly), I am certain that he would be quite pleased to know that one of the Grand Archivists might be considered kin. Distant, perhaps, but kin nonetheless.

We Kemet have always prided ourselves on our magnanimity, especially when it comes to embracing folk not of our people or species. It was utterly reprehensible of me and of my household to refer to you as "a giant bug", and I implore you to forgive the misstep. I've discharged that particular member of my staff and he was sent back to Kemet in disgrace. I'll not allow such discriminatory practices to continue in my employ.

Finally, I have heard that it is a day of celebration for you. I am truly pleased to be able to wish you the absolute best on this annual celebration of your ascension. Now that we have, hopefully, put the matter of my unfortunate lack of decorum behind us, we can move forward in peace. Towards that end, I hope that this day is truly wonderful for you, and marks merely another in a long series of happy, healthy, and amazing celebrations to come.

With the highest regard,

Issa-Antar.

issa-antar.png
From the desk of Issa Antar
Priest-Scribe of the Goddess Neith
May Her Name never be forgotten.

The Rounderpede chuckles, recalling his first encounter with the Priest-Scribe. He briefly glances over the texts accompanied by the note, and makes a mental note to learn more about the Rising Sun groups in the future. He places them aside next to the pneumatic capsule, and digs through the box once more for another note.

He pulls one out, and it's sealed within a thaumaturgic, blood-red envelope, mildly crumpled from handling by the Page. It glows with a soft black aura, and seems to pulse at regular intervals. Using his mandibles, the Roundepede conducts a minor counterseal with his personal runic signature, and the symbols begin to unbind themselves from the page. He reaches inside, and pulls a yellowing paper.

My dear friend Rounderpede,

I would say it’s nigh unbelievable that another turning of the Great Wheel has come and gone with you still on it, but the longer I’ve known you, the more and more likely that seems to become. You just can’t keep an indefinitely long insectile aberration down! Or cut it in half. Or hex it to pieces. Or even discourage it to any appreciable extent. I’ve known a lot of tough beings in my time, Ol’ Manylegs, but you might take the whole pot of strychnine soup on that front. Maybe it’s something to do with your chitinous forebears - I guess they’re known for their tenacity more than anything else. If they are your forebears, that is. I keep asking people how old you are and I’ve gotten as many different answers.

I realize it might sound patronizing or hollow coming from someone who’s almost certainly a great deal younger and more… mortal? Than you, but I wanted to convey both my congratulations and my pride-by-proxy. I remember when I arrived, you weren’t much more than a rumor, were you? Something only whispered about. A jealous hoarder of things, secluded in some dark corner. A thief, some even said. Or a construct creature, some weird golem, being manipulated by things more powerful and frightening than we could imagine.

But no. You were just a shy nerdy bug. And you sucked at magic.

And it’s been the pleasure of a lifetime watching you become something greater than that.

Now, I won’t presume to take accountability for your exploits and accomplishments. I wouldn’t dream of it, my friend. We’ve stood on the field of battle together, we’ve had our scrapes, we’ve been shoulder to… innumerable leg joints with one another alongside our compatriots in the name of order and justice. I value our friendship far too much to claim that perhaps your rise to Chief Archivist was most certainly helped along by the fact that I showed you how to actually assemble a binding circle properly and taught you how to traverse the veil of Primordia. I wouldn’t dream of it, dear Rounderpede. I wouldn’t dare suggest that perhaps your great amount of power owes, in some small way, a token of its essence to the fact that, before you met me, you couldn’t tell an imp from an infernal imperator and didn’t even know how to swear in Akhmodian. At my lowermost layer I am a gentleman, and such insinuations would not have the gall to swim the tributaries of my mind.

That said, I would hate to think that you’ve begun to fall behind on your studies with all of the new responsibilities being heaped on you lately. This has been quite the time for you. From monster to magister! You have a buffet on your plate now, and as you settle into this new paradigm, I have a feeling you’ll only encounter seconds and thirds. It’s my experience that it’s fun to sit in the big chair, but it’s heavy, and easy to become too comfortable once you settle in.

You and I have undergone some perilously dangerous adventures together, but this position you’re taking may prove to be more insidious than all of them combined. The responsibility. The agency. The choices. I know how those things can weigh.

So! To prevent your inevitable collapse into a hilarious pile of goo by either the weight of administration or just good old fashioned ignorance of incoming assassination attempts, I have enclosed with this letter a birthday gift. Birth… year. Birthtime? I don’t even know if you were born. Whatever.

You may notice that it is an enormous still-beating heart, black as coal and issuing smoke from its many terrible severed vessels. I think the smoke thing is just because it’s currently extremely agitated with me. You may have noticed the constant stream of profanity coming from it. Yes, Sir Rounderpede, I know I have taught you well. You have no doubt surmised that this is the heart of a demon. But what are those smoldering glyphs on its surface? What language is that? Why can it speak? Why is it so angry?

My friend, what you have in your possession is the heart of the demon EBORIATH. Archtyrant of Sorcery. He of Nine Thousand Eyes, Weaver of Shadows, who coils all about his many arms. The Death of Truth. Quite literally, the entity responsible for more uncertainty, doubt, and misery than nearly any other being I am aware of. Who, in this time of great transition for you, would certainly have had a claw in, and would have twisted it in the hopes of leading you to your own destruction.

I have slain him. His heart is my gift to you.

Rather than fucking everything up with his enchantments, glamours, and lies, I have bound him to the thing he hates more than anything else - the Truth. EBORIATH has been known as a master of illusions and falsehoods from ages that can barely be remembered, but with the inscriptions I have laid on his heart and spirit, he cannot lie to you. He is compelled to answer any question you ask, even if your aims are antithetical to his. He is a profoundly ancient demon of knowledge and treachery - his wealth of secrets is unfathomable.

And he will provide you guidance in this uncertain time. Because I beat the shit out of him. Don’t ask how - just know that I literally had to go through hell and then a few more hells to do it. If you use him well, no enemy’s blade will find your back, and you will see their machinations miles before they can see yours.

You don’t have to feed him, but he likes cigars. Just light one and shove it in the superior vena cava when he’s a good boy. He’ll hate you for it, and a demon’s hatred is, really, the most glorious thing anyone can have.

You’re welcome.

Be well, Rounderpede. Keep your eyes open. Stay smart. And remember that if you’re ever in need of advice, a profane codex, or just a stiff drink and a laugh, you can always call on me. I’m right around the corner.

Yours in both shadow and light,

MORGAN J. MARSH

As the Rounderpede read the letter, its dimensions began to unfold, and a vantablack, meter-long still-beating smoking heart spilled from its pages. It wheezed significantly, and when the giant insectoid finished, the heart began to curse an endless amount of obscenities and blasphemies, attacking everything it could. Another object falls from the paper, and he reaches to pick it up

Chuckling, the Roundepede, shoves a single lit cigar into the heart's gaping maws and wraps an on-hand cloth around its entire face, muffling its screams. Truly it was a marvelous gift, and he planned on using it tremendously in the future.

He digs once more into the box. This time, there's no elegant runes or designs, merely a single black strip of paper:

ISwearOfficerThisImageIsDefinitelyCC-Compliant.png

…Well, that's unfortunate. Appreciated, but unfortunate nonetheless.

He turns towards he box, and reaches into it once more.



After an hour of sifting through all the well-wishes and happy birthdays, the Rounderpede finally reads the last note and examines the last gift. He sets it down on the small pile forming next to him, and makes a mental note to file them all away into his collection later. He stretches his mandibles and what could be considered a head, then looks up from his small collection that's amassed in the center of his nest.

In front of him, a mountain of cardboard boxes pile to the heavens, or at least as high as you can stack cardboard boxes. On the immense heap, Pages crawl to and fro, depositing boxes occasionally and returning back down to get more. Each is filled with dozens of paper strips, letters, scrolls, books, and more, sometimes even gifts as big as boxes as well. Strung upon the mountain is a green banner laden with the golden words, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GRAND ARCHIVIST! across it

The Eight Grand Archivist looked back at the single box he just finished.

Today's gonna be a long day.

He couldn't wait.

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