The Book of Rules, 5th Edition [sic]
rating: +23+x

by LAN 2D

Came across a stack of loose pages with a green cover in one of the defunct East-West wings. I've managed to assemble them into some kind of structure. The pages are a little charred, but fortunately, it's readable.

I don’t know if you’ve gone through the old originals, but this copy significantly diverges from the one we have on record.

Let me know what you think.

THE BOOK OF RULES

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Rule One

Do not take what is not yours.

This maxim rings true even now. It is not simply about stealing; it is about respect. Respect for one’s fellow wanderer. Respect for one’s environment. Respect for those who came before, and those who will come after. It is not translatable to a mere ‘do not snatch a book out of another’s hands', as some may interpret it. It is as widely applicable as one wants, and as flexible as one needs. Remember it, because it pervades the essence of the Library as much as the pursuit of knowledge. Do not waste another’s time. Do not take a life. Do not take what is not yours.


Rule Two

Keep your Library card safe.

If you are acquainted with the Library, you will have been granted a Library card. Immortal and incorruptible; these cards cannot be forged, and thus, represent one’s identity moreso than a voice or physical appearance — which can be stolen by any number of deceitful sorcerers or mimics.

As such, one’s Library card is the easiest method of identifying friend from foe. Offering one’s own card is a gesture of trust and peace between parties, whilst asking for another’s card can be seen as accusatory. Choosing the latter option is advised in all cases, to confirm the honesty of a person, especially in unfamiliar locations — especially now.

If you see an ownerless Library card, hide it on your person until the owner can be found. There are those who collect the cards of wanderers as trophies. They must not be granted any more ‘rewards’.


Rule Three

Familiarise yourself with Ways.

Historically, the Ways have acted as a gateway between realities. Attempts to enter the Library by aggressors would be steered away through its labyrinthine network. Behind that first, quintessential layer, are the members of Library staff, who, by their nature, know to protect the Library and those within it. Behind even that remains an informal aegis, provided by the wanderers themselves.

Previously, knocks had been intuitive yet discreet, allowing only those wanderers with an honest desire for knowledge to enter. The Ways had been flexible in size and shape. As a tunnel is designed for a carriage, the Ways themselves would morph to protect the users within — even those with wicked intentions would be deposited safely, albeit outside the Library’s halls.

Now, it is as if their language has been changed. They no longer listen to reason, to fact, to the pure intentioned or well-meaning. They do not listen at all, rather, they shout demands and whisper secrets. They have become feral, like a web of intestines, digesting some, rejecting others. Similarly, the knocks once used to enter such Ways are obsolete and should be forgotten.

However, some things remain consistent. The familiar shimmer of a Way exit; the seemingly inherent, a priori knowledge of a clean knock being achieved. If one can recognise these things, one can learn to avoid them.

But, like all things, this is easier read than done. There are those of us who have never left the Library, never experienced the wonders that lie beyond the Ways. Further, there are those of us who do not know this place’s name or purpose, because it is unessential to their way of life: those who live beneath the sea of words, those whose ancestors wallwalked to the paperless skies above the Stacks. There are those who do not know the Library is dying.

I will not name these places, or these peoples, but if you are familiar with these isolates, inform them that things are different. They must know to beware doorways and corners, to avoid shimmers and knocks. They must know that the Ways are not safe to traverse, and the things that exit from the Ways will be malformed and dangerous.

If they do not know how to recognise a Way, teach them.

This paranoia will not last forever.


Rule Four

Limit your possessions.

Despite the Library’s diversity in both people and ecosystem, we all share one desire: knowledge. Some may find shelter here, others seek community or friendship, but these functions are always going to be secondary, for better or worse. There is a reason we call it the Library.

As you know, this culture is cemented into our minds; knowledge is sacred, and the stories narrated are more important than the person narrating. Abandon this notion now.

In the burning of Shelves Up-by-Down, I saw wanderers empty their bags of food to store more books. I watched, in awe, as they turned back, into the smoke, attempting to save the precious tomes therein. Whilst it is true that knowledge is worth preserving, there is no knowledge more precious than one’s life. This is the truth. The Library has more books than one can imagine — or count, for that matter.

Limit yourself to five books on your person, at most. There will always be an opportunity to gain more. The contents of these books are for your own choosing, though I recommend taking a variety of essentials. The Library keeps a multitude of handbooks and guides, from tying ropes or foraging for food, to the arcane arts. Do not be afraid to discard a book if you have no need for it anymore.

Do this not because it is written. Do it because, in this place, knowledge has permanence where you do not. There is no story without the storyteller.


Rule Five

Stay clear of named places.

In names, the danger lies. The first places the invaders will approach are ones that can be thought of, said aloud, communicated. Besides the Main Hall (which is consistently under siege and therefore immune to any further nominal lure I put out), places frequently talked about or with some mythology should be fled. The Wordsmith’s Shore has been overrun by mercenaries, the Preceptionary is now numb to the presence of evil, and the Glenmire Glasshouse is in shards. Like the Main Hall, these will not suffer by further mention in this book, and similarly famous places are to be avoided. In the Library, any place with any amount of literature on it will have been mapped and named; given a place within the Library cosmos. It is only a matter of time before their literature is read, and they are found.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. Bastions against the heat, safehouses among the ashes. If you know these by name, you are already within them. If not, I am sorry. I cannot name them here.

I have faith. As wanderers, you are aware of the unnamed. Seek refuge in these places, and hide, until the time comes when they are named too.


Rule Six

Avoid Library Staff.

I do not refer to the elected Curators, nor to any volunteer Librarians. I refer to the Library’s own staff: Docents, Pages, Archivists — any Librarian that is born from within the shelves.

Before the Eve, they would listen to reason. Now, they withdraw into the bowels of the Library, disregarding their duties. Those that remain above should not be considered staff anymore. I have seen Pages overturn collapsed shelves, only to ignore those trapped underneath. I have witnessed Docents act like diseased wolves, losing their stoic composure and ability to distinguish innocents from wrongdoers.

Once previously, when I still had faith in the soundness of their minds, I attempted to follow a group of Pages into the tunnels beneath the Stacks. I pursued far into the darkness, and, believing they were not aware of my presence, continued towards my destination — what I could only assume was their nest. The journey was tiresome, but I remember the walls clearly. When I initially brushed past them I felt a distinct discordance. I stopped, inspected, and realised this was the feel of a million individual pages, compressed together like some kind of sedimentary stone. I tried to remove one, to understand what kind of books were buried here, but the paper was fixed in place.

Soon after, the tunnel expanded into a large archway. The Pages funnelled through in succession, so once more, I followed. However, as soon as I passed over the threshold, I felt the Way pull me in, and suddenly I was standing in the Main Hall, dazed and alone.

I believe, somehow, I had activated the knock unwillingly, lured into the archway by the Pages. Since then, their presence in the Library proper has become sparse, and I have not attempted to follow them again. Perhaps they spared me a darker fate. I do not know. I think it’s best to leave them to the Library’s own intentions, whatever those may be.


Rule Seven

Know your enemy.

This page was torn in half, leaving only the title.

Apologies.


Rule Eight

Survive.

On the Eve of Regret, as we know it now, I witnessed first-hand Aurora's Way forced open, her visage befouled by the stitched hands of evil. I could have fought, clawed my way through the hordes, let loose my rage on the ones destroying my home until I was in pieces like Aurora before me. Instead, I slowed down, realised I would be more effective alive. And so, I called for my allies to help seal the Way, whilst I lead the invaders away from the Libary proper. Only then, did we fight.

My point is thus: defend yourself, but do not take this as an opportunity to crusade against the enemy. Save your strength; it will have far more use united than alone.

I understand the urge for vengeance. But you must understand, too, that their flames do not merely destroy the physical. As we burn, our culture burns with us. A way of life cannot be replicated once it is erased. Yet, the Library shall rebuild itself, regardless of if we are here to see the shelves rise from the ashes.

In the end, the Library remains. We must do our best to follow its lead.

That is not to say we cannot blame the ones responsible. Us survivors cannot hide forever. If you are reading this book, you will understand, whether you are a wanderer, or a trespasser. The former shall rise against the smoke, to face the flames as one. Whilst the latter — you insignificant fools, who stand before the cornucopia and think of nothing but greed; you who deserve not the demonisation we have granted you — shall wither into the echoes of history, remembered only by the scars we permit to remain.

You fiends, who read this and laugh at its message. Fear us.

Do not be fooled, the above rules are targeted at those who cannot fight, who do not know the magic capable of expelling you and your kin. As I speak, your efforts are being dismantled, your friends erased without your knowledge and soon, you.

And not merely them. The Library has its own enemies, its true enemies, long before you interlopers arrived. It is not my claws which descend from the rafters, nor is it my teeth that emerge from between the pages of a book. It is not my ears that hear the beautiful call of the siren shelves, only to be seized by wooden arms.

It is not my knees that fall to the floor, my throat slit. Alone.

And those of us who cannot fight, crouching in the darkness, hiding beneath the stacks, will wait, are waiting, for our time. We shall not merely wander into ruin, as our title suggests; we shall walk, together, into the unknown, into uncertainty.

The Library will be here when we return.

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