Reginald's Reign
rating: +6+x

My friend S4m and I both work as 'Librarians' in the Wanderer's Library. My job is that of the Guidance Officer, basically leading people to restricted regions, and helping lost folks out of the Library. S4m was effectively the Head Chef, though she technically wasn't a staff member, and thus wasn't beholden to the Library's whims as I was. S4m and I had been working together in the kitchens, producing a pop of our own creation, branded 'Carlyle Sodie-Pop!' We had the great idea of making a commercial for our pop, so that when we actually released it into the Library market people would want to buy it. So, we had gotten a few friends together, including a shape shifter to be our actor and the thespin1 to be our director since Ire has a knack for film production. We shot the commercial, and the next day we decided to start running it, after getting permission from the Rounderpede.

We didn't just broadcast the ad in the Library. There are a few Adjacent Worlds, as we call them, that always have fully open Gate Ways into the Library. We decided to run the ads there as well since, it wouldn't just get us pop sales, but also get more folks to come into the Library.

S4m and I were sitting in the Main Hall, along with a few other staff members like Volek, Jish, a thespin, my friend Craigory, and a few others, all crowded around a small TV screen at the Main Desk. It was a slow day and no patrons were in the Main Hall, so Malaise didn't immediately flail their arms at us to get us to go back to our jobs. I had a canteen full of ssider from a keg that S4m had nicked from the kitchens, and I was rocking a bit of a buzz. We were counting down the minutes until the commercial aired, and the general mood was jovial. Jish was playing a hand of cards with Ire, Volek was constantly trying to steal Patch's jester hat. Then the time came. S4m and I shushed everyone.

"It's about to start," I said. I started wringing my hands. S4m and I had worked long and hard on the commercial, even going to the point of using illusory magicians to animate some of the scenes. The commercial began.

Everything was going right. Sir Reginald Frankfurter De Dandy Carlyle Esq. was sitting in his chair, ranting about how wonderful him and his pop were. Everything was great. I glanced around at the faces of those around me, and they were smiling and laughing at the absurdity of the commercial and Reginald's character, as planned. I was looking at all of the people's reactions when S4m nudged me. I looked back to her and her eyes were wide. She pointed at the TV. I saw Reginald burning down a village.

That hadn't been in the original. Reginald had saved the village from a horde of monsters, not burned it down. I continued to watch and it only got worse from there. The scene of his fight with the Drake was altered as well. In the original, Reginald had heroically slid beneath the beast with a sword and stabbed it. In the new version, he cowardly stood beneath a steel pylon while he blew up a rock that crashed onto the Drake. For the entire runtime S4m and I exchanged worried looks, and the once jovial air that rested around the TV had cooled into dull concern and confusion from the viewers.

We arrived at the end. Reginald was mutating into some sort of horrid beast. At this point, I didn't even react to it. Everything was wrecked and I had mentally shut down. Then the TV exploded.

Those who had gathered around the TV set scattered. I lost sight of everyone, but I felt a metallic claw grabbing onto the scruff of my crewneck sweatshirt. I was hoisted twenty feet into the air where I was held aloft next to S4m, she herself being elevated by the bionic arms emerging from her spine. She looked at me grimly. I tried to speak, but another of her arms clamped over my mouth.

What?! I asked her telepathically.

Only telepathy, she responded.

Obviously. Why? S4m pointed with one of her real arms into the smoke surrounding the Main Desk. I saw a tall, gaunt figure in the haze. Something emaciated and grotesque, with flaps of skin hanging from every limb. On the head of this creature rested a blazing crimson crown of blades, digging into the scalp of the devil before me. It was the mutated creature I had seen in the ad just before. Sir Fucking Reginald Frankfurter de Dandy Carlyle Esq. had come through the TV and become corporeal.

S4m and I sat as still as possible, twenty feet above the thing's head. The ghoul was staring down at the ground, at something that it held in its clawed grasp. The thespin. The two headed cyborg was roaring with fury under the control of Ire, trying to wriggle and struggle it's way out of Reginald's grasp. It wasn't making much headway. S4m and I averted our gazes from whatever grotesque fate the thespin was about to meet. A CRASH!!!! sounded from the stacks adjacent to the Main Hall.

A blurry line of vaguely orbicular segments flew past my head at mach 6. I caught a glance of the Rounderpede dashing in and out of the scene with the thespin, depositing it in the stacks, then returning and surrounding the monster.

"Get out of here!" the Rounderpede hissed at us. The ghoul fixed its gaze on the infinite insect and seemed to be getting ready to pounce. The Rounderpede moved quicker however, and rapidly wound around the creature and started constricting it and holding it in place. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Jish and Craigory slipping into the stacks after climbing out of their hiding spaces under a couple of desks. Neither Volek nor Patch were anywhere to be seen. S4m started to move, using her arms to climb into the shelves of the stacks. Before we left, I heard the Rounderpede shout one last thing:

"Do not return S4m! Protocol Rubrum Diabolicus is in effect. Look for…" I didn't catch the last part as S4m moved rapidly, and the Rounderpede's words were lost to the wind in my ears. S4m removed her mechanical arm from my mouth.

"What the fuck?!" I shouted over the clanking of her arms. S4m shook her head at me.

"Don't make me explain, cause the part I do know is restricted info on a need-to-know basis."

"I think this is pretty damned need-to-know!" I glared at S4m. She did not look back at me. "S4m," I said. She looked to me. "I don't know what is happening S4m, and I'm scared that somehow it was our fault. Our friends are back there S4m. I-," I began to choke up, "-I saw Craig and Jish get away, and the thespin got saved by the Rounderpede, but Volek and Patch…" I stopped talking. She knew what I meant, and speaking words can lead to unpleasant things manifesting. I saw her eyes start to well up with tears.

"Frank, I can't tell you anything, even though I wish above all that I could. Right now I need to get us to a safe place." I didn't bother asking where we were headed; I could tell. Judging from where we were in the Library, and S4m's general trajectory, we were headed toward Missy the Giant Orca's tank. Usually Missy's tank was in the Main Hall, or adjacent to it, but recently Missy had preferred being near the Park of the Library. Apparently she liked the trees.

S4m took a sharp turn around a shelf, glancing upwards. It didn't take a genius to recognize the shock in her face. I looked up after her, seeing nothing but the Rafters many kilometers up.

"What's the deal S4m?" I shouted to her. She looked at me and shook her head, continuing to climb through the stacks as fast as possible. I noticed a green glow in the irises of her eyes that wasn't usually there. The eye of the snake tattoo on her head flared red, and I took that to mean she was using some kind of magic. Whatever she could see above us that I couldn't was not good.

We travelled for a few minutes in silence before emerging from the stacks into the Park. It was a large space, technically infinite, since one only reached an exit if they wanted to leave. The area we were in was a large plain of tall grasses, some areas reaching four feet in height. Sparse trees dotted the monotonous grassland here and there, but not in any significant way.

Since she no longer had shelves to climb through, S4m let me and herself down and we began running the old-fashioned way. Missy's tank wasn't too far, only five minutes from where we entered. It was a giant tank, obviously, looking like a wall of water from over 100 meters away. The tank wasn't incredibly interesting though, since it was just a bunch of water held back by a wall of glass that I knew to be around eight feet thick. When we reached the wall, S4m extended two of her bionic arms and lifted herself thirty meters into the air. Another pair of arms braced against the wall for a moment, before rotating and carving a circle into the glass. The noise was awful, like nails on a chalkboard. I'd had my hand resting against the wall and I felt the vibrations reverberating through. S4m was calling the orca.

It didn't take long for her to show up. One moment it was silent, the next Missy slammed into the glass wall, causing it and the ground to shake vigorously. Missy the Giant Orca is a sight to behold. I can't specify her size, since it changes every moment that you process her, but she is always at a size that most would refer to as 'giant'. I glanced at S4m as Missy swam up to her. She made some hand signals that I didn't recognize, but apparently Missy did. I sat there for a few minutes as S4m and Missy had a conversation in sign language.

"Everything going alright? Catching up on each other's lives or something?" I shouted after a bit. I was still annoyed with S4m and they were taking forever.

"Frank, closeth thy mouth before Missy swallows you." I rolled my eyes. S4m conducted a few more signs and looked at her wrist before Missy did a big loop de loop and dashed off. S4m re-braced her bionic arms against the circle she had made. Steam started to pour out of the scratch in the glass, and the centers of the arms started to glow white-hot. Then she did something that at the time I thought was the dumbest fucking thing I'd ever seen. She vaporized the glass.

A torrent of water was unleashed. The only way I can describe it is like how I imagined this one scene in a book I read, where a guy who split a sea in half lets it close again on some people chasing him. A huge amount of water gushed out and I started being pulled away by the current. Luckily, S4m picked me up in the nick of time.

"Are you psycho?!" I asked. She smiled at me and promptly shoved me through the hole she had carved through eight feet of glass, then dove through herself. I thought I'd just get dragged back out by the moving water, but as I turned to look at the hole, I saw it being filled by a glowing red fluid. S4m was facing the hole, hands to her temples, eyes closed. The snake tattoo's eyes glowed bright red.

This kind of magic is new, I thought. I didn't really have time to dwell on it though, since as soon as the hole was filled, S4m swam over to me, and bear hugged me. A barrage of bionic arms came from her back and formed a sphere around us. By some means, the water was drained from our orb, and we were resting for a moment. S4m was breathing heavily, and I was in a mild shock. After a few seconds I recovered and pushed my way out of her grasp.

"Pardon me, but what the hell?" S4m laughed her clear, bell-like laugh. I didn't find anything funny. I'm semi-aquatic, so swimming and breathing are a non-issue, but now I had to go walking around in wet socks.

"Give it," S4m checked a watch on her wrist, "Twenty seconds. Brace yourself." I started to say something, but apparently, she had caught her breath and the arms retreated back into her spine. I was about to telepathically say some choice words that would've made my mother have an aneurism, but that was the moment Missy the Giant Orca sped back into the scene and swallowed both of us whole.

The inside of a whale's stomach is more comfortable than one might expect. I guess we probably weren't actually in Missy's stomach, seeing as how we were in what appeared to be the living room of a lavish house. The white marble floors had veins of gold and lapis lazuli running through them, and the walls were covered in bookshelves about ten feet tall. The ceiling appeared to be an endless expanse of void as did the southern wall. The bookshelves of the northern wall were interrupted by an ornate wooden fireplace, in which burned a purple and red flame. Three long red couches with golden frames faced the fireplace, and on them sat Craigory, Patch, and Jish. I was standing behind one of the couches with S4m to my left. I looked over to her.

"Now, I know the past thirty-ish minutes I've been saying this a lot, but WHAT?!"

"Heya Frank! Come over and dry by the fire. This ain't worth gettin' in a tizzy over." Craigory said with his twangy deep voice. Craigory stretched one of his spindly arms from his egg-shaped body, handing us towels. S4m sat to the right of the fireplace, leaving room for me, but I ignored her and sat to the left of the fireplace. So many secrets were being kept from me. A portal inside of Missy? How much else had she not told me? I pondered this in silence as the others began to talk.

"So where's Volek?" S4m asked, "He brought you in here, right?"

"Yeah," Jish said, "He warped us in through a ruinic circle under the Main Desk. He jumped through the flames about an hour ago, muttering about how the Rounderpede is fucked if Rubrum Diabolicus is actually in effect. You guys have any clue what that shit means?" I looked up.

"Not in the slightest cause someone won't take time to explain. Where are Volek and Rounder? Haven't seen Malaise since the explosion either. Has Missy always had a portal to Limbo in her throat?" S4m was lost in thought, but she glanced at me sharply when I mentioned Limbo.

"How do you know this place?" She asked.

"Perks of being a Guide. I know the names of places and where they are. Limbo isn't supposed to be accessible by any means, except an Archivist dreaming into it. There are theories that say we're actually in the Serpent, though sometimes they say we're in the stomach, and others say we're in a literal mind palace. Do you need more fun facts?" S4m shook her head.

"Right, well," Patch said, "Now that we're here, what are we supposed to do? Volek kinda just dumped us off and left."

"Did he leave anything behind? A message, or a note or something?" S4m asked. Craigory shook his head, which was a monumental task since his 'head' was one and the same as his torso. Jish fished a piece of paper from his pocket and handed it to S4m. I got a glimpse of Malaise's signature.

"Not Volek, but we found this sitting on the mantle, and Volek took a look at it before leaving."

"Fuck," S4m said after finishing the note, "Alright, we're gonna wait here for another hour, and if Volek doesn't show up… well we'll have to improvise." She stood up, walked to one of the bookshelves, grabbed a volume, and returned to her seat.

"That it?" I asked, "No explanations, just orders?" S4m shut her eyes, and I could tell she was close to getting angry.

"Frank, just trust me for a little bit, ok? I know what I'm supposed to be doing, and you all don't need to know yet. This is for your own safety. If I told you too much, if you understood the threat, it would be able to find us anywhere within the Library. So, for now, your ignorance is keeping us alive. Now, read a book or something."

The next hour was long and boring. I played cards with Jish, Patch, and Craigory, but it wasn't fun since I was able to read every move they made. Fifty minutes in, Jish was examining the purple and red fire, Patch was passed out on one of the couches, and Craigory was reorganizing the bookshelves alphabetically by the third to last letters of titles. S4m was still reading. I was laying flat on the floor, staring blankly at the void that existed where a ceiling should've. It was silent, barring the slight snorting and snoring of Patch, and the slight swish and thunk of Craigory replacing a book on the shelves.

Swish, thunk, snort. Swish, thunk, snort. Swish, thunk, snort….. FWOOOSH!

The fire flared up and outward, causing Jish to fall back, and S4m to stand up, extending four of her bionic arms, ready to fight. I glanced over at the commotion and telepathically reached out to whatever was entering the room.

Who's coming through? The only answer I received was a slightly muffled echo of my message.

"It's Volek," I said, standing up. Communicating telepathically with Volek didn't really work, at least not with my telepathy. I'd guess that it's due to him putting some sort of protection on his brain to prevent mind reading and the such, but I don't really know. Never thought to ask. As a result, all I usually get in response is an echo.

S4m collapsed her bionics, though she maintained a ready stance. I moved over to Jish and picked him up off of the ground, smacking Patch on the forehead as I went since the clown slept through the noise.

"Wha-? What's goin' on?" Patch asked as I got Jish up.

"Nothing good," said Volek as he emerged from the flames. The skeleton was wearing his cowled robes, so only his face (would you call a skull a face?) and hands were visible. Now, skull's aren't great at expressing emotion on their own, but Volek's body posture told me that something was in a royally fucked up state. His usually jovial and mischievous attitude was completely gone.

"Any updates?" S4m asked, still in a readied stance, as though she expected Volek to snap and try to kill us at any moment. Volek looked over to her.

"A talking crow never lies," Volek said. His watchword. Assumedly he was using it as some form of identification with S4m. S4m relaxed, sitting back down, and Volek did the same.

"The Rounderpede got the thespin to safety. I met up with it and Malaise down in their bunker in the Archives, and they informed me that the termination plan failed. So, now we're supposed to evacuate. Most of the staff is already gone, aside from some of the pages who are staying to make sure that no patrons have been left behind. I found Sq'rlk and a few others and helped them get out to an adjacent world, but they aren't doing much better."

"What do you mean by, 'they aren't doing much better'?" Jish asked.

"Anywhere that the advertisement was played, there have been reports of monsters," Volek said.

"Why haven't they just gotten some magicians or reality rewriters to erase them? Like, it makes sense in the Library, since that stuff is restricted, but you'd figure in an adjacent world…" Jish's thought fell off as Volek shook his head.

"These things aren't like that. They…" He looked over at S4m who shook her head slightly. "Well, they have something anchoring them to reality, something far more powerful than any magicians or rewriters."

"Considering the entire Library is being evacuated, and even the Archivists are heading out, it sounds like these things might be more powerful than the Library itself, " I said, "And by that logic, they're stronger than the Serpent." S4m jerked her head up and looked at me, eyes blazing. Volek stared at me blankly.

"The fuck do you mean by that?" S4m asked, her voiced strained. Everyone was looking at me, even Craigory who had still been reshelving books as Volek had arrived.

"Well, think about it. The Library, which is an extension of the Serpent, can transform people into pages in a moment. The Serpent was capable of tying an aspect of existence to the Library, and it itself is and aspect of existence, but it can't zap these monsters into dust. That means that whatever is behind these things is greater than it, greater-"

"Greater than existence?" Craigory said, standing up, holding a tome in his hands. He was scared at that prospect, I could tell, but if there's one thing to know about Craigory, it's that he always keeps a cool and level head. "Well, if that is the case, it doesn't really matter what we do, so best to not dwell upon it. Mr. Volek, what should our next move be?" Volek took a deep breath.

"Well, I'm gonna need someone to come with me to retrieve some folks from another safe region and get them out. Patch, you up for it?"

"Huh? Yeah, yeah totally!" Patch said. He had been picking at his shirt collar and had started quite the hole. Volek nodded.

"Alright, hopefully we'll be able to find a Way to somewhere other than an Adjacent World. If not… well, we'll improvise."

"That is my specialty!" Patch did a cartwheel to the fireplace, though it was kind of awkward due to the fact that the fireplace was only six or seven feet away.

"Alright. S4m, what's your plan?" S4m looked over at Craigory, Jish, and I.

"We'll probably just be heading out too." There was a lot of pain in that response. I realized at that moment that I didn't know what was going to happen to the Library, or if I would ever step foot in it again. What the hell did I have to go back to? I was technically forced to be in the Library, but I didn't really have much to care about in my home reality. The Library was my home at this point. Volek nodded.

"S4m, just so you're aware, Malaise said that Protocol Rubrum Diabolicus is officially defunct, barring any extraordinary circumstances, so now Ultimo De Morte is the only option. We have three days." Volek looked at all of us, nodded, grabbed Patch, and vanished into the inferno.

"Alright S4m, seeing as how things have progressed, you wanna tell us what these protocols are?" I asked. Jish and Craigory looked intently at S4m.

"Listen S4m, I know the language you're using," Jish said, "Latin. So I know what these protocols are saying, and I can draw my own conclusions, or you can make it easy." S4m shook her head and closed her eyes, furrowing her brow. The snake tattoo on the side of her head began to glow and wriggle.

"I can't say anything to you, unless you already know."

"Fine then," Jish said, "Craig, Frank, listen close to me." Jish sat on the central couch and Craigory and I took the two auxiliary couches. "The first, Protocol Rubrum Diabolicus translates to 'Protocol Red Devil'. Ultimo De Morte translates to 'the final death'. Now, I don't really know what the first is referring to, but the second isn't good at all, is it S4m?" Jish asked with venom in his voice. S4m could only nod, and she began to massage her temples. Seemed like the tattoo was giving her a hell of a headache. I glanced over to Craigory to gauge his reaction, but he was stone faced.

"Well the second one seems easy enough to decode," I said, "The Archivist's… they're gonna destroy-"

"Yeah," S4m said standing up, seemingly recovered from the headache, "and I don't think we want to be in it when that happens. Get your stuff. We're leaving now." Thank the Serpent she was so forceful with her command, because I don't know if I would have been able to move on my own in that moment. My world was about to literally be crashing in on me, and I had no method to combat it.

Craigory shoved all of the books randomly back onto the shelf, though I don't know why he bothered. It's not like we'd be coming back. He kept one book with him, shoving it into a pocket that should have been to small to fit it in. We all walked through the fire, walking single file.

When we emerged, there was only silence. We walked out of S4m's apparatus at the back of the kitchens, materializing out of thin air, with nothing but a puff of smoke hinting at where we'd come from. Our little group headed through the kitchens as quietly as possible. I knew for sure that there was at least one monster in the Library, but there could have been hundreds. All of the countertops and stations were vacant, and the kaleidoscopic system of shelves and ingredients above wasn't moving.

We walked through the large archway and into the stacks. I was in the lead, with Jish right behind me, Craigory behind him, and S4m at the back. I decided to just go through the stacks themselves, and not the main thoroughfare halls, since that way it'd be easier to lose a hostile. This was a bad call.

An unholy shriek pierced our silent march through the stacks, followed by the pounding of feet. All of us halted for a moment, trying to figure out what direction the noise was coming from. We were in an intersection, each of us facing a different direction, so it came as a surprise when the creature pounced on us from above.

S4m noticed it before the rest of us, scrambling to get all of us out of the way. S4m shoved me into the path I had been facing, shoved Craigory into his pathway, and grabbed Jish by the back of his collar and yanked him into her pathway. I don't know what they did after this, since I began running as hard as I could.

Apparently I had just drawn the multiversal short straw, as the creature decided to follow me, rather than my friends. Unfortunately for the creature, it had gotten the short end of the stick too. If anyone was capable of losing an emaciated, homocidal beast in the stacks, it was the goddam Guidance Officer.

I only caught sight of the creature when I was sharply turning corners to confuse it. It was still thin and deathly pale, but was far larger than it had been before, maybe twelve feet in height, or length as it was now pursuing me on four legs, and was covered in cuts oozing viscous black liquid and yellowing bruises. It also seemed more monstrous, with its spinal bones being more pronounced and visible cords of thick muscle lying underneath the skin on its limbs. The face looked like someone had taken it to a blender on full power, a result of the Rounderpede I presumed. The only thing that seemed completely unaffected was the red crown of blades digging into the already mangled flesh of its head.

I ran down a straight-away with all of my might, then sharply turned at an intersection, causing the beast to experience inertia and continue straight as it tried to gain traction and follow me. I heard a collision of some sort, likely the thing running into a shelf, followed by pounding steps. This cat and mouse game continued for a bit, until I started to lose energy.

As I had been running and getting tired, I had started getting careless with what paths I had been turning down, and I realized that I was approaching a very unfortunate place. The Scorched Stacks. In about three hundred meters, I would encounter nothing but a bottomless chasm of charred wood with no hope of crossing it.

I came upon the chasm, the monster biting at my heels. Since I couldn't keep going forward, I instead began to run parallel to the canyon. I had hoped that Reginald wouldn't have been able to slow down enough and would have fallen into the chasm, but unfortunately it had learned its lesson. I heard the slamming of its feet slow to a stop for a moment before it roared ferociously. The booming footsteps began again, and I could tell that it was only a matter of time before the thing caught up to me.

Fuck, I thought, This is really how I go out? Running next to the most tragic place in the Library, chased by an abomination, ultimately slowing and getting torn to shreds. I had hoped that my death would be a little more valorous or heroic, or just mundane, but this was a horror show. This was the worst possible death I could think of.

I could feel it, my death, looming ever closer every step I took, hearing the bounding leaps of the creature behind me. Every step came slower than the last, and every slam of the monster's feet came closer. I felt it closing in, the edges of my vision going hazy, until I collapsed on the ground. I wasn't fully out, as I saw the beast slow down and look down at my body, its gaze containing nothing but pure malice. I tried to reach out with my mind.

Please, please don't, I begged. I got no response, not even an animalistic emotion. It was similar to the response I get when I try to telepathically communicate with a sleeping person. Pure emptiness, less than nothing. The thing leaned in, bringing its mangled, bloody maw close enough to my face that I could smell its rank breath, but I didn't have the energy to turn away. I was able to see the crown slightly more clearly, though in the moment I could only take in a weird symbol on one of the blades, that of a closed eye. It opened its jaw wide and moved in for the kill.

"Gaaaah!" I heard someone shout. The monster recoiled in pain, lifting its maw away from my body. It sharply turned away from me, and I got a good look at the massive gash in its back. Black ichor oozed out of the wound, which stretched from the right shoulder, down to the small of the thing's back. It sat still for a minute or so, as though it were attempting to comprehend pain for the first time.

"Frank!" someone shouted over the stacks. Moments later S4m came clambering over the shelves, Jish and Craigory being held aloft by two arms. They sported shimmering blue crossbows, probably constructs that Jish magicked into existence. S4m dropped them off on the shelf and leaped down on top of the monster. I was still paralyzed with exhaustion, so I just lay there and watched as she began to rip the thing apart. The tattooed creatures on her body came alive and began running across her skin. The eyes of the snake on the side of her head began to glow and red runes covered her bionic arms.

The air surrounding S4m's arms looked hazy, and the runes flared. Heat emanated from her, and it made my eyes sting. She rushed the monster which had been sizing her up. The got into a wrestling match, with S4m using four arms to hold Reginald back, while two other arms anchored her to the ground. Slowly she began to push the monster away from my body. She maneuvered around Reginald, digging two of her burning arms into the gash on its back, and started pulling it toward the scorched canyon. All the while, Jish and Craigory launched bolt after bolt of harsh blue energy, though it only bounced off of the beast's hide.

Reginald was close to the edge when it finally found its footing again, shifting its body in such a way that it escaped S4m's grasp. S4m was thrown back from the sudden loss of grip, which sent her skidding across the ground and into the chasm. She held onto the edge of the canyon with three of her bionic arms and began slowly pulling herself up.

Reginald turned its gaze to the two annoyances on the shelves, launching needles of bright blue at it. Reginald paused for a moment before charging the shelf that Craigory and Jish were perched on. It rammed the shelf with enough force to shake it violently, but the resistant oak boards did not give. The monster attempted to draw back from the shelf, but it found its head held in place. The crown of red blades had become embedded deep within the wood of the shelf, immobilizing Reginald for a moment.

Jish and Craigory scurried down from their vantage point, making sure to stay out of the range of Reginald's limbs. Jish supported my exhausted body and started to pull me away as Craigory stood guard over the shrieking monster. Jish and I had barely moved anywhere when Reginald screamed louder than any sound we had ever heard. A tearing and creaking sound pierced through the scream, and we watched as the creature reared back from the shelf, ripping some of the blades out of its head. Now freed, Reginald began to stalk toward us, like a lion about to go in for the kill.

Just at the moment it seemed like it was about to pounce, S4m launched herself over the edge of the chasm and onto Reginald's back. Jish set me down and, with what seemed like a final surge of his strength, conjured up a spectral blue bulldozer behind Reginald and S4m. As S4m anchored the beast to the ground, Jish sent the bulldozer forward and shoved the two of them off of the edge. S4m pushed the monster away and pulled herself back up to the surface, leaving the thing to hopefully fall forever.

Reginald's cries of rage eventually fell silent. Jish and I were both collapsed on the ground, completely exhausted. S4m retracted her bionic arms and walked over to us. Her tattoos had calmed down and were now returning to their normal positions. The snake on the side of her head coiled slightly tighter and hissed. S4m held out her hands and conjured two flasks out of the air. She handed one to Craigory, who began to give it to Jish, while S4m came to me and helped me drink. Ssider. A cider-like, mildly alcoholic drink rumored to contain the venom of the Serpent itself. I downed the entire flask and, within ten or so minutes, I felt my strength return. My fatigue faded and I could stand on my own again.

"Holy hell," I said, "You did it. You actually overpowered the damn thing." S4m shook her head.

"Those monsters are way too strong to overpower. We tricked it into a tough situation. That doesn't count for much." Jish was on his feet at this point. "Good work Jish," S4m said. Jish nodded.

"I'm not going to be able to do too much for the next little while. Making a construct like that taps me for a while, sometimes for a week."

"Don't worry about it," Craigory said, putting his hand on Jish's shoulder, "We have our own means of protecting ourselves. Shall we take a moment to-" At that moment, a violent roar cascaded up from the chasm, rattling the shelves and reverberating through our bodies.

S4m and I rushed to look over the edge. I saw nothing, but S4m's stifled shriek of horror told me that something was there. She looked at me and her eyes were glowing green again.

"Hold out your arm." I did as I was told, and she grasped my forearm tightly. The snake tattoo slithered from her head, down her neck, across her body, and then onto my arm. It appeared to sink its teeth into my skin, and I felt my vision expand.

I looked down into the chasm. I saw a horror indescribable. It could have been vaguely in the shape of Reginald, but beyond distortion and any sort of physical possibility I had ever seen. It was huge, a creature that's very nature was a contradiction of reality. In what I could only assume was a limb of some sort was the struggling body of the Reginald that had chased us. It was screaming, terrified. The eldritch horror ripped the scarlet crown from its head before embracing it tightly. I cannot describe what followed, as to do so would destroy the fundamental aspects of many realities, so let it suffice to say that the Reginald was no more. The being moved its… heads? We caught its attention, and it began to rapidly climb. The tattoo returned to S4m, and she let go of me.

"Shit," I said, "Time to go." There was no discussion. We all grabbed our things and started walking. I lagged behind for a minute in order to look at the fragments of the crown that were lodged in the wood of the shelf. there were really only two large fragments, one of which was almost completely stuck within the wood. The other fragment looked to only be a couple inches deep. I grabbed a book off of a nearby shelf and used it to grab a hold of the blade. Yanking with all of my might, I managed to pull it out. It was the center piece of the crown. A shorter blade, probably around eight or nine inches. It was a deep crimson cover, and on one side there was an engraving of a closed eye symbol. I turned the blade to look at the other side. A very fine engraving had been hidden from my view when Reginald had stood over me. On the other side of the blade was the image of a rope tied into a noose. Behind me, a grasping limb slammed onto the floor level, and I sprinted after my friends.

They weren't too far ahead of me, luckily. No one was talking, though Jish was panting heavily. We reached the Main Hall pretty quickly through the combined will of myself, Craigory, and S4m. The Library bent to our will, expediting our travel, getting us to the Main Hall in ten minutes. It was in shambles. Everything was on fire, every desk was smashed. I walked over to the remains of my desk, hidden in the corner next to the Main Desk. Just a pile of ash, even my metal pen. It was… it was sobering. Even the Wanderer's Library can be overcome.

S4m stood next to me as I stared down at the remains of my desk, the remains of my job, the only thing that had given me real purpose in my life. Even though I always complained about it, my job at the Library was the best thing to ever happen to me. And now it was being ripped away. S4m pulled me out of my mind, tugging gently on my arm.

We need to get moving, she said telepathically. I nodded, stood for a moment longer, then followed her. We walked over to Jish and Craigory, who were standing at the entrance of a Gate Way to an adjacent world. Montalou, the city of rain.

"This is it," Craigory said. He didn't have tear ducts, so he couldn't cry, but I could hear the emotion in his voice. Jish just looked at the ground darkly, his black military jacket with the Serpent's Hand logo on the back. He was leaving behind the one place he had been safe, and found community. The djinn's skin took on a darker tone of blue, which I knew meant that he was barely holding himself together. I looked at S4m. She held her hand out to me, and I took it. Jish and Craigory walked through the Gate Way ahead of us. We paused for one last moment, greedily breathing in our last breaths of Library air. As soon as we began to take our first step towards the portal, we heard powerful roars of rage coming from the stacks. I turned, seeing seven Reginald monsters leaping out of the shelves, running on all fours. They were breathing heavily, the leeches resting above their upper lip bobbing up and down.

S4m put her arm on my shoulder, once again sharing her sight with me. Three of the eldritch creatures were coming towards us. Two were crawling out of the rafters, and another charged in through the stacks. One of the creatures in the rafters leaped down, striking the floor with such force that reality itself seemed to fracture and flickering fragments of light floated through the air. The creatures could physically destroy the Library.

S4m and I dashed forward, getting through the portal as quickly as possible. S4m extended four of her arms back through the portal.

Brace me. I held her in place as tightly as I could. She jolted backward, as though she were pulling herself back through the portal. I heard a rumble, a roar of agony, and a hum of energy dissipating. I looked back at the Gate Way we had just ran through, what should have been a stone archway with a green-gold whirlpool of energy. The archway was empty. S4m cried out and fell to the ground.

"S4m!" I said, crouching down next to her. The four arms she had extended back into the portal lay dead on the ground, severed by the closure of the Gate Way. Not only had they been cut in half, but they weren't attached to S4m anymore. I looked at her back and saw blood soaking through her white tank top.

"Holy shit! JISH! CRAIG! JISH!" I shouted for help. Jish and Craigory were no where in sight. "Shit." I helped S4m stand up, trying to support her without hurting her back. "Come on S4m, we just gotta walk a bit," I said. She nodded feebly. The forceful removal of her bionic arms wore her out. I got her walking though. Slowly.

The Gate Way was in the train station of Montalou. It was a grandiose thing, with a bunch of fancy architectural things everywhere. It opened up onto the Main Street of Montalou, from which one could properly observe the city of rain. The entire thing was kaleidoscopic, with gravity working every which way, whenever and wherever it wanted. Buildings and streets folded over, into, and out of other cities in such a manner that it was difficult to keep track of where you were sometimes. Except for the Main Street and the buildings on it. This was the only area in all of Montalou without kaleidoscopic physics.

We emerged from the train station, greeted with a torrent of rain. The rain had the advantage of masking the mind numbing physics visible off of Main Street, so I could keep my focus. The problem is, the rain could also be masking other things, like the eldritch beasts.

"JISH! CRAIGORY! WHERE ARE YOU?!" I shouted. S4m was not looking good. She was going pale and her breathing was labored. The entire back of her shirt was soaked with red. I tripped on the cobbled stone street, and both of us fell to the ground. I tried to stand up, pulling S4m with me, but I couldn't. The wear and tear of the last few hours weighed on me. It hadn't felt like hours. It had felt like days.

"Sleep," someone said behind me. I got up, ready to fight. I saw a dark figure with a glowing red closed eye symbol on their head, reaching their arm out toward me. I started to take a step towards the figure, but before I even set my foot back on the ground, I blacked out.

I woke up on top of a roof. It was a weird, kaleidoscopic space, but I could tell that it was the roof of a building. I was lying on the hard stone roof, staring at folding cities above me as rain appeared from nowhere and pelted my face. Way in the distance, I could see giant eldritch creatures weaving in and around the cityscape. Luckily, it seemed as though they hadn't noticed us. I found the strength to sit up, somehow. Blacking out twice in a single day usually wears a person down. I saw three other figures lying on the roof beside me.

"S4m!" I rasped. I crawled toward her body as my strength slowly returned. My throat felt as dry as the Tax Record Desert in the Library, as though I had been screaming for several hours without water to drink. I reached S4m's body and shook her gently.

"Frank?" she mumbled as her eyes fluttered open.

"Yeah. We're safe right now. I think." Craigory began to stir and Jish shot up.

"Where's that cloaked bastard?!" Jish yelled hoarsely as he activated a magical ward on his hand. He circled around and saw S4m and I.

"I think," Craigory said as he stood up, "We are in a safe space, Jish. You may lower your ward." He set his arm on Jish's shoulder. Jish relaxed his posture and dropped the ward. Craigory cleared his throat. "Now, if you all haven't noticed," he turned and pointed to the other side of the roof, "We have something to explore."

The gateway was a confusing sight to behold. It looked like someone had taken a hammer and smashed the air like glass. Thousands of glistening fragments of space hung motionless in the air, while red fluid pooled out onto the ground from a source within the gateway. Tiny footprints, the size of insects, tracked out of the red fluid and outward across the roof.

"That definitely looks like a door to a deathtrap," Jish said. I helped S4m stand up and looked her in the eyes.

"Not like we have much of a choice. What else are we gonna do?" I motioned with my head to the distant eldritch creatures, which I now realized I could see without S4m's assisstance. My hand was subconsciously playing with something in my pocket. Jish and Craigory looked around confused. "So, you ready to walk into a death trap?" S4m gave me a wry smile.

"The entire multiverse is a death trap Frank. We've been through worse I'm sure." She gingerly reached to feel the wounds on her back, all of which were covered in bandages soaked in a green salve. "I think I can hold up." Her tattoos flared to life and the eyes of the snake on the side of her head glowed bright red.

"Your arms?" I asked. She shook her head.

"No. They're gone." I nodded.

"Well, no time like the present," I said, "Who's first?" Craigory, S4m, and I looked over at Jish who was writing warding glyphs all over his left arm with a sharpie. He looked up.

"Shit. Fiiiine." He stood up and triggered one of the wards which expanded into a tower shield of blue light over his arm. We all headed towards the gateway, Craigory and S4m behind Jish and myself tailing. The others walked through, I paused. On the ground in front of the gateway, a symbol was etched into the stone of the roof. A closed eye, the same that had glowed from beneath the cloaked figure's cowl. The same eye…

I reached into one of the pockets of my cargo shorts and pulled out a red piece of metal, still steaming with a supernatural heat. A blade from Reginald's crown, inscribed with the symbol of a closed eye. Yeah, this was definitely a deathtrap. I held the blade in my hand as I walked through the gateway.

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