The Tree of Alexandria
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Far beyond the Main Hall, beyond Euclid's Sorrows and the non euclidean stacks, lies the Tree. The Tree, Yggdrasil Progenitor, is close to as old as the Library itself. Though it currently can be found hundreds of thousands of stacks out from the Main Hall, Yggdrasil Progenitor has had a long and invariably stranger history than many parts of the Library.

Yggdrasil Progenitor was the gift of Alexandria to creation. She planted the Tree and helped it grow so large that the roots touched all the cold and dead universes. Any world touched by the roots birthed life, and as a gift to her children, Alexandria granted an archive of every life to each world.

Eons after the Tree was first planted, the King in Red threatened Yggdrasil Progenitor in his rampage against all of creation. Alexandria sought refuge for her creation, going to the Serpent for help. The Serpent took pity on Alexandria, taking her in, and tying Yggdrasil Progenitor to its great Library, hiding it from the King who could not see nor enter the Library.

Today, one can find Yggdrasil Progenitor in a very secluded part of the Library. The entrance is hidden between two shelves in the 1932 Seattle Lawn Care Competition 17th Place Winners records. If a patron is not looking for the crevice or doesn't know it exists, their brain will simply not register it. Their eyes will see the irregularity in the shelves, but not process it. The chamber where the Tree resides is only accessible through a very tight crack in the wall. This crack continues in a tunnel for one hundred or so meters, before opening up into Yggdrasil Progenitor itself.

The crevice opens up into a forest full of towering trees. If one were to peer upwards, and be able to see through the thicket of the forest, they would see the enormous boughs of the Tree itself. If they were to turn their eyes to the ground, they would recognize that they were not walking on grass and dirt, but the mossy roots of the Tree. Every tree in the forest is a shelf, and from it you can remove any tome that will detail the entirety of a living creature’s life. Every life, of every creature, from every conceivable universe is part of the Tree.

This region is not populated by any library staff, and no tomes are permitted to be removed from the housing of Yggdrasil Progenitor. Instead of relying on Library staff, Yggdrasil Progenitor produces the Sprites, a team of nineteen unique creatures that are tasked to patrol the Tree. They appear as somewhat formless, constantly morphing and shaping into any creature imaginable, and many unimaginable.

Now unlike the majority of Library patrons, I have visited Yggdrasil Progenitor. Knowledge of the existence of the Tree is sparse, and the Librarians like to keep it that way. Only the Archivists, myself, and a number of random staff and patrons know of Yggdrasil’s location. Maybe 20 or so people in total. While those other staff members and patrons likely have their own stories on how they came across the Tree, I will be relaying mine.

I was granted knowledge of the location because I was the Guidance Officer for the Library for a period of 140 years. This was my sentence for accidentally dissolving a patron made of salt when I fell into the Library. I was on a Slip N’ Slide and fell through a Way, bringing some water with me. It's a whole story. In any case, I was sentenced to work for the library for 100 years. The extra forty years were extensions due to ‘bad behavior’.

As the Guidance Officer I would help new patrons navigate their way through the Library, helping them find certain regions or people that they were looking for. Most of the time I was just showing terrified people how to leave and get back to their own realities. Sometimes though, I received an interesting assignment. One of these assignments was with Gawr.

I was sitting at my desk in the Main Hall, a little to the left of the main desk where an archivist sat, working. It was a slow day. I only had to escort two people out of the Library and I had shown maybe three patrons how to get around the Library by willing it to bend around them. The third one had a little trouble; he had been trying to get to a marine life section, but accidentally ended up in the tank of Missy the giant orca. I sorted him out though. He was fine, aside from the unplanned arm amputation.

My feet were kicked up and I was drinking a cup of decaffeinated tea (I was twelve years sober of caffeine at that point). I was mulling over a book I had just read that was about how to masterfully be a nuisance to your boss when a shadow appeared in front of me. A towering, emaciated, greenish black skinned figure stood before me. The face was obscured by a hefty amount of backlighting.

“What do you want?” I asked rudely. I had hoped to be done for the day.

“Pardon me sir, but I am wondering if I may get some directions.” The figure responded. I rolled my eyes, though he couldn’t have been able to tell since I have no pupils.

“Really? You came to the guidance desk needing directions? Well I’ll be…” At that point I received a mental thwap on the back of the head from the Archivist who glared at me from across the room. “Alright, sit down.” The figure sat in the tiny plastic chair that was in front of my desk, and I could now make out its face. It looked like a humanoid face, except with slits for eyes and a mouth that was far too wide, like it was stretching past where its large, batlike ears were. I reached into my desk drawer and took out the guidance request form that I have to make for every patron that visits me. These things were eight pages long. Such a waste of paper and time. “So, I’ll need your name, Library card number, and where you would like to go.”

“I am Gawr. No- G-A-W… Yeah. Card number 55827145-zR33*. I would like directions to Yggdrasil Progenitor, if you don’t mind.”

Well fuck, I thought, This is gonna be a lot more paperwork. After a moment of stunned/annoyed silence I said, “May I ask why you want to find Yggdrasil Progenitor, and why you think a place with such a name exists in the Library?” I saw the face of Gawr fall, and it was truly a horrifying display.

“Does it not exist? I had been told… I,” Gawr started stuttering profusely and I couldn’t make out anything he was saying.

“Alright alright, let me contact one of my superiors please.” I looked over to the Archivist sitting at the main desk. We engaged in a short telepathic battle of arguments on whether or not this mysterious patron should be given access to Yggdrasil Progenitor. I was heavily on the side of no, and not just because I was lazy. Yggdrasil Progenitor is a high value target, and there are many groups that have tried to infiltrate it before. I just didn’t understand why the hell they were considering allowing this random patron access. Unfortunately I was outranked by the Archivist who ordered me to take him. This Archivist was a real asshole, but also one of those hoity-toity types who thought, “Knowledge is a gift for all people,” or some shit. They had allowed multiple questionable patrons into restricted areas before with little to no consequences received. I think that made them feel slightly ‘holier than thou’ with regards to my predicament.

I slammed my fist on the desk. “Fine.” I turned to Gawr. “Alright bud, let's get a couple of things straight right off of the bat, alright?” Gawr nodded, looking taken aback by my attitude. “I do not want to take you to Yggdrasil Progenitor, but I have been ordered by someone who outranks me to do so. I will be taking you, but we will not be able to quick travel far through the Library. We are going to have to hike through the stacks for two days. Are you up for that?”

“Yessir.” Not the answer I had wanted. I sighed and sent a mental finger to the Archivist.

“Fucking fine then. Get your ass up and follow me.” Gawr stood up to his full height, which I’d wager to say was seven and a half feet or so. He towered over my short stature rather dramatically. Oh what a duo we were.

I traveled briskly, hoping that I might be able to shake him off and he’d get lost in the stacks so that I wouldn’t have to deal with him. Unfortunately, his legs were very long and he kept stride with me rather well.

We traveled through the stacks for a few minutes in silence. I was willing the Library to get us to our destination faster, but it still took a bit. The Library may be magical, but it isn’t that magical. It takes energy and time for the Library to reorient itself for patrons, especially if many of them are trying to travel quickly at once.

After those few awkward minutes, Gawr and I walked out of the stacks finding ourselves at a large archway. The archway was patterned with black and white tiles in a checkerboard pattern. At the very tip of the arch, there was a pair of eyes that looked over anyone nearby. This was the entrance to the kitchens.

I walked through the archway without speaking a word to Gawr. He followed me in as I assumed he would. Right when I gauged he was through, I turned around to face him. I just barely caught the sight of a giant spatula falling down from the ceiling and slamming Gawr backwards and out of the kitchens. Funniest shit I’ve ever seen.

Gawr wasn’t dead or seriously injured. The trap was only meant to minorly incapacitate for a few minutes. I went ahead through the kitchens, passing numerous white countertops and islands that randomly dotted the massive space of the kitchens. The kitchens were maybe 80ft. wide, but they extended to a theoretical infinity. The ceiling of the kitchens was a dark void containing a complex, non euclidean mass of cupboards, refrigerators, and all manners of ingredients, even full grown fruit trees. From this mass, any tool, recipe, or ingredient could be obtained. I passed by all of this, bending the Library to bring me to S4m. S4m or “Sam”, was a many armed cyborg that worked in a spherical workstation. I had visited her many times to steal some snacks and such things.

I passed by a few friendly faces as I went along. I saw a security guard buddy of mine named Jish. He was part of the Architect's Unofficial Security Team, or AUST. It's really just the worst name. He was a broad shouldered, blue skinned, reality bender. He called his race the djinn. I walked up on him picking an apple off of a tree that was in the non euclidean shelving unit above.

“Hey bud, aren’t you supposed to stop people from stealing?” I asked as I walked up from behind him.

“Oh hey Frank!” he said as he turned around. He tried to smile, but his face appeared to be stuffed with some form of pastry. The “Oh hey Frank!” had sounded more like, “Mh ha-gh Frnk!”.

“Heya Jish. Once you're done stuffing your face, do you think you could go and make sure my charge doesn’t go off anywhere? He should be on the floor, right outside of the archway. Real lanky fellow, freaky ass face.”

“Yeah, no problem.” Jish replied. Again, very difficult to understand. He tried to swallow all of the food in his mouth, which was a mistake. I saw the lump stuck in his throat and his face began to turn more blue than usual.

“Ah shit,” I said, walking behind him and wrapping my arms around his stomach, “Jish, what have I always told you? Chew your goddamned food!”I squeezed his stomach with all of my might, which sent a baseball of semi-masticated pastry hurtling over to the next workstation. It hit the back of a cook's head, which turned and glared at me and Jish. Jish offered a small wave and a smile of apology. He turned to me.

“Thanks for that. Sometimes I forget that I can’t reality bend in the Library to stop myself from choking. Yeah, I can go and watch your guy. Who are you looking for in here?”

“S4m,” I said. Jish’s face went pale. Jish had gotten his ass whooped by S4m a month ago when she had caught him stealing a pastry that she had cooked.

“Right, well,” Jish cleared his throat after a small voice crack, “I’ll just be waiting outside with your guy then. Did he get knocked out by the ban spatula?” I nodded. It was called the ban spatula because the guy who made it for the kitchen staff was a moderator for something or other and it was a reference to a ‘ban hammer’ or something. I dunno, the dude was weird.

I watched Jish walk away and fade from sight and continued on my way to S4m. I found her at the “back” of the kitchens. Though the kitchens continued for a relative infinity, one could reach a back wall if they willed it.

The back wall of the kitchens was semicircle. A raised circular dais sat centered and above that dais was a mind bogglingly complex amalgamation of countertops, appliances, tables, and ingredients, all roughly shaped into a thirty foot wide sphere levitating twenty feet off of the ground. Many ingredients and objects were on the upside down and vertical counters, held there by an abnormal gravity. Every part of the sphere was rapidly moving, weaving in and around each other, and all the while numerous metallic arms cut ingredients and threw dishes around in a chaotic, yet incredibly controlled dance. At the center of the organized maelstrom sat a floating woman.

This was S4m. She wore a white tank top, grey sweatpants, and no shoes. Her numerous tattoos were visible. Monsters and dragons were animated across her skin, literally moving. Half of her head was shaved, which was new, showcasing a coiling snake. All of the rapidly moving arms collected at a single point on the small of her back. She sat floating in a meditative state in the center of her workstation, which she often referred to as the Apparatus.

“S4m!” I yelled, hoping that she could hear me over the constant clatter emanating from the dishes being tossed around by her arms. After a few moments without a response I tried again. Still no answer. I focused real hard on her mind, which was freely open as she was meditating.

S4M!!!, I screamed into her brain. The frenzy of arms halted, and her eyes opened. The Apparatus screeched to a halt.

“Frank,” S4m said in a strained tone, “How many fucking times do I have to tell you to not thought fuck me when I’m meditating.” S4m uncrossed her legs and slowly descended to the floor. Most of her numerous arms collapsed into her back, though she left four out.

“Yeah well,” I responded, “You couldn’t fucking hear me. I figured telepathy was slightly more polite than chucking a plate at your head.” S4m chuckled slightly, sending shivers down my spine. I never had gotten used to the hauntingly beautiful sound of her laughter. It was weird, a combination of laughter and mechanical whirring. “Anyways, I need some supplies.”

“What for?” S4m asked. One of her eyes was mechanical and was in the process of cycling through focusing lenses.

“Escorting a guy to a restricted section. One of the ones you have to walk to. Probably gonna take a couple of days, so if you’ve got some food we could take, that'd be great.”

“Yeah, I might be able to scrounge something up.” S4m’s four arms dashed away and dug through a number of cupboards in the Apparatus. When they withdrew they held two rucksacks and stacks of tupperware containers which were promptly stuffed into said rucksacks. S4m’s arms whipped around, holding the rucksacks ten feet above my head. “So which restricted section?”

“You know I’m not allowed to say that S4m.” I said. We had been through this song and dance before.

“Come on, I know of almost every restricted section in this damn Library and how to get there. What is it? The Labyrinth? The Archives? Euclid’s Sorrows?” She looked at me intently. I just shook my head at her. “I mean, I assume it isn’t the kitchens, seeing as how you're alone. Neverwere fields?”

“None of those. I’m not going to tell you. This is one of the highest priorities in the Library and even if you know of it I still can’t speak its name or the Rounderpede will literally have my hide.” S4m’s human eye lit up with recognition and understanding.

“Oh shit. Your fucking going to the Tree. Holy hell.” I did not acknowledge her statement. “I know of it, been there once even. Damn. That’s… that’s heavy.” I continued to stay silent, because if I said anything, the Rounderpede would know, and he would come for me with a vengeance. “Well, I won’t keep you any longer.” S4m dropped the rucksacks onto the floor next to me. “You stay safe, promise?”

“Yeah S4m, I’ll stay safe. The route usually isn’t too dangerous, as long as you know how to navigate it.” S4m nodded and I hefted the rucksacks onto my shoulders. She floated back up to the Apparatus, slowly closing her eyes. I waved to her before I left, but I don’t know if she actually saw it.

Bending my way back to the archway at the beginning of the kitchens, I thought about S4m. She knew of the Tree? I was very surprised. I had a list of every patron and staff member who knows of every restricted section, and S4m was not supposed to know about Yggdrasil. I sent a mental memo to the Rounderpede since I figured that it was a matter of Library security. Also, what had that snake tattoo been? She hadn’t always had it, I don’t think. Either that or she just covered it with her hair and was now showing it off for some reason. Very strange indeed.

I exited the kitchens seeing Jish sitting on a bench with a still knocked out Gawr lying on the floor in front of him.

“Still out cold, huh?” I said as I sat on the bench next to Jish.

“Yeah. He’s been sleeping like a baby. Was even sucking his thumb at one point. Where’d this whack-a-mole come from anyway?”

“Not sure. I’m not required to ask, so I didn’t bother. He has a Library card though, so he is a registered patron.” I reached into one of the rucksacks which I had set at my feet, and dug out two flasks. I handed one to Jish and he nodded his thanks.

We popped the flasks simultaneously, making us smile at each other like two little kids who just popped their chip bags at the same time during lunch. We both took long swigs. The flasks contained ssider, a mildly alcoholic cider drink made from fruit from a clone of the tree of life and a special mixture of serpent venom. The drink was hard to come by anywhere else but in the kitchens, which is why the ban spatula was constructed in the first place. Too many patrons had been looking to steal ssider. The ingredients list on the backs of the flasks only said that it contained “serpent venom”, but no one knew for certain if that meant any serpent or the Serpent. In any case, the stuff was very good and when you could get it, you took it.

Glancing into the rucksack, I saw two more flasks or ssider. I took one of them and put it into the other rucksack, which I decided would be mine. Ssider has a side effect of healing mortal wounds and terminal diseases, but not minor things. I figured I’d only let the stranger have one flask, just out of self interest. If he turned into a security risk, I’d prefer to only have to put him down twice rather than five times.

On the ground, Gawr began to stir. I saw his eyes shoot open first, then after a few seconds his body tensed and he shot to his feet faster than me or Jish could react.

“Woah buddy, chill out. You’re fine.” I said, standing up and patting him on the shoulder, “You got knocked out for a bit cause you tried to enter an area restricted to normal patrons.” Gawr looked over at me, expressionless, and nodded.

“Are we to be on our way now?” Gawr asked me.

“Yeah, sure. It's been nice seeing you Jish. Take care.” I said.

“You too bud. Where are you two off to, just to know where to look for your bodies if I can’t find you.” Jish said, taking another swig of ssider.

“Sorry Jish, can’t say. It's a restricted section.”

“Oh, well have fun then. Don’t fucking die.” Jish walked back to the archway and disappeared. I stood for a few seconds, watching him go. I was thinking more about the strange snake tattoo that I had seen on S4m. Was it something to do with the Serpent’s Hand? I never thought that S4m would get involved with a group like that.

My deep thought was interrupted by a tap on the shoulder from Gawr.

“I don’t mean to bother you Guidance Officer, but shouldn’t we be on our way?”

“Yeah yeah,” I said swatting away his hand, “We’re going. Also, just call me Frank. ‘Guidance Officer’ makes it sound like I give a damn about this job.” We set off into the stacks again, heading towards one of the main ‘highways’ through the Library.

The first hour of walking passed in utter silence. We were venturing through the stacks, which meant that we didn’t see many other patrons. I did see a couple of folks I knew, including a little rat creature named Wumbo. Almost stepped on the damn thing, but luckily it darted out of the way. I also saw a sketchbook lying on the ground, which I knew belonged to some patron I had met before. I carried it until I found a Page climbing around on the shelves. I whistled to it to get its attention, tossed it the sketchbook, and sent it on its way to the Main Hall for them to deal with.

After the silent hour we arrived at one of the main highways in the Library. It was a wide hallway, probably fifty feet wide, and led into the stacks on both sides. Many odd assortments of creatures dotted the hall, and there was a general sense of hustle and bustle as patrons dashed to and fro to get to their destinations. Gawr and I did our best to budge through the throng and continue forwards, but it was difficult. Unfortunately, the highways are one of the few places that you cannot bend the Library to travel faster. There is, however, another way.

After traveling a couple of miles, Gawr and I found ourselves in a large circular atrium. The highway continued around the center, breaking off into two separate paths on either side. In the center, a number of people waited. I grabbed Gawr’s weirdly slimy forearm and dragged him forward into the center. I put my fingers in my mouth and did a high pitched whistle.

Zooooosh! A large white golf cart appeared in front of me, and inside was an anthropomorphic fish with bionic legs.
“Wanderer’s Transport Service,” the fish said in a heavy French accent, “Where can I take you today?”

“We need to get to stack number 1908366529008755,” I said, rattling off all of the numbers by memory. With restricted sections like Yggdrasil Progenitor, you weren’t allowed to write down anything on how to get to them. If you did write it down, the ink or graphite of the pen or pencil would instantly smudge to the point of no recognition.

“Be there in a jiffy sir,” the fish replied. He was lying. A jiffy is the amount of time it takes light to travel one fermi, about 10-15m. So a jiffy is about 3x10-24 seconds. The Wanderer’s Transport Service teleported instantly. By design, anyone within a cart blinks their eyes right as the teleportation takes place, to continue with the facade of a very fast golf cart. Gawr and I climbed out of the cart at stack number 1908366529008755. Very few people were this far out on the highway and the hall was almost empty.

“Au revoir!” the French fish said, then it disappeared with a Zoosh!

“Alright Gawr, the Library could get us this far quickly. Unfortunately, the next couple of days are gonna be constant hiking in the stacks. You prepared?”

“Yes Frank. By any chance do you need me to carry one of the bags?” I hadn’t realised I had been carrying both of the rucksacks still. I awkwardly shrugged off the bag with only one flask of ssider in it and tossed it to Gawr. The creature caught it deftly and slipped it onto its back in a single movement.

“Alright.” Gawr and I stepped into the shelves and started walking.

“Now,” I said about ten minutes into walking through the stack, “this first day is going to be relatively uneventful, hopefully. The stacks are generally safe, so long as a person doesn’t come hurtling towards the ground after falling out of the rafters.” Gawr nodded, listening like a student who was new to a school.

“Is that a common occurrence?” Gawr asked. His voice was much higher than I expected, but also very gravely.

“Not too often. It's rare that people climb up to the rafters, so most people who are up there can fly.” We lapsed into a prolonged silence. This was the thing I hated most about being the Guidance Officer. If I had to take a person on a hike to reach their section, the hike would always be chock full of awkward silence and tension. Gawr was the one to break the seal after about an hour.

“So,” he began, “You said today was easy. What comes tomorrow?”

“Well,” I said, “Tomorrow we cross the Scorched Stacks. We’re gonna have to navigate our way across very weak timbers and such things.”

“What are the Scorched Stacks?”

“Oh well,” I sighed. “It is a really long story. Sad, complicated, all that.”

“Well it is a long hike we are on. It would be nice to have a story to listen to.” I sighed again. The Scorched Stacks were not a happy subject.

“Well, if you must know, the Scorched Stacks are several thousands of rows of shelves that were burned and lost. No one is quite sure how the fire started, nor how far the scorched stacks reach, but they seemingly go for quite a while. That's why we have to cross them, rather than go around.” I lapsed into silence for a minute before continuing. “The fire happened about twenty years ago. When the alarms sounded it had seemed like the whole Library was about to be consumed. I was tasked with finding the fire and guiding staff to it so they could get control of it… when we reached it, the fire seemed almost alive. A tendril of flame reached out and grabbed a friend of mine who was instantly consumed. Eventually we got control though, and put it out. Some speculate though that it is still raging further out in the Library, and that is why the Scorched Stacks seem endless.” When I finished I realised that there were tears in my eyes. I hadn’t thought about the fire in a long time, nor had I thought about my friend that had died.

“I am very sorry. I did not mean to bring up painful memories,” Gawr said softly. We had been hiking the whole time, but I had stopped for a moment to wipe my eyes. The skinny oaf comfortingly patted me on my back. He took off his rucksack and dug through, pulling out the flask of ssider.

“Drink this. It’ll make you feel better.” That just made me feel guilty.

“No Gawr, I have my own. In fact, take one of mine.” I dropped to the floor and handed Gawr one of my flasks of ssider. The creature accepted it with a gracious nod, packing the other flask away in his rucksack. We sat on the floor between two shelves about dog toy varieties at Home Depot, and drank our ssider.

“Gawr,” I asked, “Why are you trying to get to the Tree?” Gawr stiffened slightly at the question and his bat-like ears perked up, alert. I, as a master of socialising, picked up on this. Tactfully I said, “You don’t have to but… Ya know I just spilled my guts so I figured you could do the same?” Gawr laughed at that.

“Well I suppose you’re correct,” he paused, seemingly collecting his thoughts and deciding how much he wanted to divulge. “I come from a world called Lydrogandia. In this world there is one dominant species of intelligence, that of the minotaur people. I, in case you have not noticed, am not a minotaur.” I looked at him blankly since I had no fucking clue what a minotaur was.

“The fuck’s a minotaur?” I asked.

“Oh,” Gawr said, “I forgot that you come from a totally different reality. My apologies. A minotaur is like a human and a cow mixed together. You know what humans and cows are, yes?”

“Yeah I know what humans and cows are. I’ve worked in the Library for a while, and we see a helluva lot of humans. How do you know what humans are?”

“Well, my world has achieved space travel, so they ventured to other planets and found another intelligent race, which were humans.” Gawr said.

“Huh, okay, continue with your story then.”

“Right,” Gawr cracked his knuckles before continuing talking, “Well you see I am not a half-man half-cow. No one from my world knows what I am or where I came from. I don’t know where I came from. I was found in a field and raised by my adoptive parents. At the start of my teenage years, which I am still in, I became curious of what I was and where I had come from. There was no record from humans or minotaurs on the existence of a creature like myself. It seemed hopeless. Then, a masquerade was broken.” A little light went off in my head. A broken masquerade huh?

“Shit, you must’ve had a Foundation or some equivalent, didn’t you?” Gawr nodded.

“When the masquerade was broken and the veil fell, all of minotaur-kind gained access to a subterranean library referred to as ‘Alexandria’. The library contained the detailed description of every life that had ever occurred on my world. It seemed like an answer, the answer that I had been searching for.”

“-but…” I interjected. Gawr nodded once again.

“But indeed. Alexandria contained no tome for myself. It should have been titled ‘Gawr Laor’, but when I went to the shelf it should have been on, there was no book. I left, defeated. The global government allowed every citizen a visit to Alexandria every month, and I returned every month to the point where my book should have been, but it never appeared.” Gawr paused for a moment to take a long swig of ssider. “Damn I wish this was more alcoholic.”

I squinted at Gawr as I said, “Didn’t you say that you were still a teen?” If Gawr’s face could’ve flushed, I think it would’ve. He stammered for a moment before continuing with his story.

“Anyways, after two years of returning to Alexandria every month, I went for what I was considering to be the last time. I figured that since the book had not shown up in two years, it likely never would. So I ventured to my shelf one last time. To my surprise, a new tome rest where mine would have been. All of the other books were brown, yet this one was blue. There was no name on the binding, so I had opened it without a second thought. Every page was blank.” I let out a scoff of disbelief.

“That has to be the worst divine prank of all time,” I said.

“You would think so, wouldn’t you friend? But, after I closed the empty book, I saw writing on the back cover. It read, ‘Inquire to the Guide as to the location of Yggdrasil Progenitor. We are delighted to finally reunite with you.’ I had no idea what this meant, but then the book felt very hot. I dropped it out of instinct and it fell on the binding, opening the pages. I saw a bright flash of light, and then I appeared in the Main Hall of the Library.”

“Oh shit,” I said, “You fell through a unique Way. Those aren’t too common.” I took a long swig of my ssider. Listening to stories can make a man thirsty.

“Yes. I did what I figured was most logical and inquired to other patrons as to the location of the Guide. I was pointed to you, and you know the rest.” I nodded slowly, thinking things over in my mind.

“Do you have any ideas on who might’ve been sending for you? It sounded like something made that Way for you for specifically that moment in time.” Gawr shook his head.

“I presume, Frank, that if I knew who might be sending for me in a Library that I didn’t know existed until today, I would know where I came from. I think these two situations are linked.”

“Fair assumption I suppose.” I checked my watch. “Fuck, its getting late. We should probably sleep. We’ve got a lot more ground to cover tomorrow, and we gotta get past the Scorched Stacks.” Gawr stood up and moved over to one of the shelves, and started climbing.

“Yo, what the fuck are you doing?” Instead of responding to me, Gawr pointed out three empty shelves that were next to each other that were three times as tall as the normal shelves. One of the alcoves was a couple feet longer than the others. They were maybe twenty feet up. In two of the little alcoves were mattresses and pillows, and the other was empty, likely enough space for two rucksacks. This weirded me the fuck out.

“Okay then.” I said, not allowing my apprehension dissuade me from climbing up next to Gawr. We both took a bed, him taking the longer and I the shorter. I tossed the rucksacks into the adjacent shelf-alcove and lay down on the mattress. I’d say that I was asleep before my head hit the pillow, but that's a lie. I had a minor existential attack about how someone knew that Gawr and I would stop here before I finally drifted off to sleep.

That night had to have been one of the best sleeps of my life. The dormitories for Library staff are comfortable and all, but this random shelf mattress was something else. When I woke up I didn't even feel too groggy, which was unusual for me. I still felt a little tired though, so when I had climbed down to the ground with the rucksacks, I dug through and pulled out an aluminum can. Carlyle pop. A recipe I had made myself with S4m a few years ago. It was a carbonated pop, very similar to a cream soda, that was pumped full of an abhorrent amount of carlyleine. Carlyleine is a caffeine substitute which isn't quite so addictive to me. Also, Carlyle pop is spiked with just enough booze to make you be in a good mood in the morning. After chugging the whole can of pop, I hollered up at the sleeping Gawr.

"Hey! Gawr! We need to get going. Get your ass awake!" A groan and incoherent mumbling was accompanied by the figure of Gawr turning towards the interior of the alcove. "I swear to the Serpent Gawr, if you don't get up in thirty seconds, I'm gonna come up there and pull you down." This got a response, likely because Gawr didn't fancy having bruises or broken bones as we walked for another full day.

Slowly but surely, the form of Gawr descended the shelves. Once on the floor, he collapsed, looking dazed and bleary eyed. I dug through his rucksack for a can of Carlyle. Finding it, I tossed it at his head. He didn't bother catching it, instead opting to move his head over slightly so the can bounced off of the shelf and landed on the ground with a dull thunk.

"Open the can and drink the shit," I said, "Its an energy drink. Should work for you if your biology is anywhere close to mine." Gawr clawed on the ground for the can, his eyes closed. He found it and popped the tab, downing the whole thing in a matter of seconds. Never have I known anyone who could just fucking chug a whole can of pop in ten seconds. It's unnatural. A few minutes after drinking the Carlyle, Gawr leaped to his feet faster than I could reflexively jump back.

"It seems as though your energy drink works," Gawr said, "This is incredible. I feel like I could just leap into the air and fly." I chuckled slightly at that.

"Well, if you could fly we could get to Yggdrasil a helluva lot faster." Gawr closed his eyes, looking like he was focusing, then jumped three feet in the air. He did not fly, but damn could he jump. "Well, so much for that idea," I said, "Grab some jerky out of your bag and let's start walking."

We walked and talked for six or seven hours, munching on snacks that had been stuffed in our bags by S4m. Gawr'd had a very interesting life. Strangely enough, he had not been bullied at all for being so different from all of his peers in school. He had been widely accepted and liked, since he learned quickly, especially with languages. Gawr showcased for me his knowledge of the sixty basic minotaurus dialects, as well as several human languages. Minotaurun culture apparently highly regards intelligence over most other attributes, so it worked out for him. He told me stories from his childhood, which he admitted he was still in since he was only 16-ish. I told him that he wasn't allowed to have anymore ssider unless circumstances dictated otherwise.

I told a lot of stories about myself once he had run out of interesting encounters in the canyons of his homeworld. I avoided the sadder stuff, like how I had lost my job and wife and been addicted to caffeine when I fell into the Library, but I told him about how I fell on a Slip N' Slide which launched me into a Way. He thought that that was very funny. I avoided mentioning that I had partially dissolved a patron. I told him of my childhood and my stint in the armed Kthulian services as a crossbow marksman. I told him all of these things in a slight hope that a young man wouldn't follow the path that I had found myself on.

For example, when Gawr told me about how he had been starting to get invested in playing gambling games with his friends, for real money, I shut it down. I told him to try something else, explaining how my whole predicament in life had started with gambling. I was nervous that I was going to scare the kid by being overly serious, but Gawr just listened and learned, taking in what I said.

We did have our moments of silence. Six hours is a lot of time, and all of it can't reasonably be filled with conversation. During these quiet times I communicated with my superiors on our progress, and I thought to myself. I thought about Yggdrasil, which I hadn't been to in quite a while. The last time I had been was to guide a doctor to see one of the Sprites who had fallen ill. I had spoken with the Head Sprite for a length of time, and I remembered being able to just say anything to it. That creature had somehow made me spill my entire life story out without thinking. I wondered if I would get to see it again this time. The fellow had been like a therapist, even giving me advice which had caught me off guard.

A little past noon, Gawr and I found ourselves on the edge of the Scorched Stacks. In front of us was a wide chasm of indeterminable depth. The floor had been burned away along the huge expanse, leaving a canyon. As far as you could see in either direction, there were no shelves. Across the chasm, the shelves began again.

"How are you planning to get us across Frank?" Gawr asked. To be honest, I wasn't completely sure. The last time I had done this trip I'd been with a doctor that had had wings, so she flew us over. The time before that was before the fire, so this issue hadn't existed. The entire floor wasn't gone over the canyon, just most of it. A thin framework of half-burned planks and boards littered some areas, providing a possible way across. If the boards held. If they didn't then the Library would need a new Guidance Officer.

"Come on, follow me," I said, trying my best to look confident as I jogged along the side of Scorched Stacks, looking for thicker beams that didn't look too burnt. I found some eventually. One set of mostly untouched beams extended over half of the way across the pit, but the rest of the way had less stable looking boards. We would have to jump a couple of meters from the stable beam to the more fragile looking boards, which is what concerned me slightly.

"Here?" Gawr asked as I stepped out onto the sturdier beams, testing them to make sure they held my weight. They did just fine, didn't even bend.

"Yeah, here is probably the best we'll get." I sent a telepathic message to one of the Archivists, I believe it was the octopus, telling them that we should probably get some form of bridge set up so that future excursions past the Scorched stacks would be easier. I summoned my balls of steel, and stepped out fully onto the beam.

Gawr was following closely behind me, moving very slowly as I was. We reached the end of the stable beams without much fuss, though I lost my balance slightly and fell forward, not sideways. At the end of the beam, I reanalyzed the boards we would be jumping to. They did not look good. I could see the ash and charcoal, and it did not give me confidence.

"Alright Gawr. I am gonna go first, alright? If something happens-" I saw Gawr's eyes shift nervously, "-not that anything will, but if something does I'm going to need you to yell for a page and tell them what happened. They'll help you get back to the Main Hall. If I get across, I'll see if I can find some loose shelves to remove and build a small bridge. Nod if you understand." Gawr nodded, and the panic that was in his eyes set into resolve.

"If you fall, I will do my best to try to catch you." My eyes got slightly misty at that.

"Just don't try so hard that you slip yourself," I said. I backed him up along the beam a bit, and set myself up for a running jump. I began to dash, and ran out of beam faster than I thought I would. I leaped at the end, and saw myself draw close to the board I was aiming for. I was just close enough to grab it, and I felt a moment of relief, right before…


Then I was falling. Gawr lept out and grabbed my hand, but the problem is that he jumped off of the beam to reach me. Why did the dumbass do this? I thought, as I closed my eyes, thinking I would hit the ground at any moment. I could feel the air rushing past my face, and I could feel Gawr's hand on my wrist, holding me in what would soon be a literal death grip. As we fell, his grip felt stronger, and his nails felt more like claws. Then…


The wind rushing past my face started going in the other direction. I was falling far more slowly. I looked up, seeing an enormous golden eagle holding my arm in its talons. The thing was trying to flap its wings, but it was having difficulty getting full movements, like the wings were pinched somehow. I pulled my arm free of the eagle's talons and started climbing up the leg and then up the back. We were still falling, meaning that wind was still pushing against me as I climbed onto the thing's back. On the back I saw the problem. The wings were pinched backward by a rucksack. My mind was not logical at this point, so it just thought, Why the hell does this bird have a rucksack? I climbed to the rucksack as fast as I could and did the only thing I figured I could do. I loosened the straps all of the way. If I'd had a knife, I probably would have used that, but loosening the straps and hoping for the best was all I had. Thankfully, it was enough. The rucksack adjusted and the wings were granted full range of motion. I barely moved myself into a sitting position in front of the rucksack before…


We began rapidly ascending. The eagle flew higher and higher, all the way to the surface, where it landed, and I slipped off of its back and onto the floor. After a few moments with my face stuffed in the floor, my logical brain activated again and began processing everything that had just happened in the past twelve or so seconds. One of my first thoughts was, Holy shitballs was that fucking Gawr?

"Gawr?" I said as I stood up and walked over to the giant bird. The bird nodded when I said Gawr, and I could see that the thing was shaking. "You have no fucking clue what's going on, do you?" I asked Gawr. The bird shook its head violently and started clicking one of its talons incessantly, like nervously shaking its leg. "Alright Gawr, chill out for a second," I said as I began to think. This strange development might be the best news we'd gotten in a while.

"Alright Gawr. I don't know why the fuck you're a bird now either, but this might be good," I said. Bird Gawr gave me a confused look and tilted its head. "What I'm thinking is that, since you're a bird, we can just fly to the entrance to Yggdrasil in less than an hour!" The bird looked questioningly at itself, as if it wasn't sure if it thought that it could make it that far. "You can do it man," I said and I climbed onto the bird to dig through the rucksack. I pulled out the last flask of ssider in Gawr's bag, though he should've had two but I suspect he snuck some at night. I popped the flask and motioned for Gawr to open his mouth. I waterfalled the entire flask into the bird's beak, and I saw him shake with energy after downing all of it.

"Are you ready?" I asked as I climbed onto the back of Gawr, resting between the nape of the neck and the rucksack and kicking my legs over the shoulders.

Gawr responded with a loud "Caaw!" and took off. We ascended for a bit before cresting above the stacks, a relative infinity above the ground. We found ourselves flying through the rafters which were populated by a number of patrons also flying rapidly to their destinations. It was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever… experienced. We flew so quickly that we reached the entrance to the Tree in under an hour.

I had to kick Gawr on the shoulders and yell to him that we had passed the entrance. He flew back around and slowly descended. When we landed, I hopped off and started pacing along the shelf we were next to. It was the right shelf, but I needed to find the crack in the shelf. I found it after a couple of minutes, maybe twenty meters from where Gawr and I landed. I turned to look over to the eagle, but instead I saw Gawr, normal Gawr, running to catch up with me.

"Holy shit Gawr!" I yelled as the skinny giant ran up to me. I hugged him right as he got to me. "Dude you saved our fucking lives, holy shit!" I stopped yelling out of excitement when I realized that Gawr was crying.

"We almost died," he said, weeping, "we almost fucking died Frank." I hugged him tighter.

"It's ok, it's ok. We're past it now Gawr. Its all over. You're safe." We stood there for a few moments, until Gawr pulled away and wiped his eyes.

"This is so much right now," he said, "I've been missing from my home for a day now, I almost fucking died, and I'm almost at the end of the road. I almost know what I am." I patted Gawr's shoulder.

"Indeed. In fact…" I turned Gawr to look at the shelf next to us. Where there should have been a normal line of books there was a cement wall with a large crevice in it. Big enough for us to barely squeeze through. I double checked and read a label on an adjacent bookshelf. 1932 Seattle Lawn Care Competition 17th Place Winners. We were here all right. "Are you ready to find your history Gawr?" I asked him as I doffed my rucksack and motioned for him to do the same. We squeezed ourselves into the crevice which was just barely wide enough for us to fit. I assume the Library makes it just wide enough so that whatever patron is trying to enter can.

We didn't speak the whole time we were squeezing ourselves through the crack in the wall. Even if we had felt the urge to, we may not have had enough room to bring in a big enough breath to talk. On the other side we were greeted with the most breathtaking sight that anyone could ever lay eyes on.

The chamber that held Yggdrasil Progenitor was magical. When I entered it I could feel the raw essence of life, and felt an overwhelming sense of love and history. I felt a personal connection to the Tree as soon as I stepped into its domain. It's to be expected, seeing as how this Tree, which is a manifestation of Alexandria's powers, is my ancestral beginning, my progenitor.

After climbing into the open I paused and gazed at the scenery, and I felt Gawr next to me doing the same. We stood on a moss covered tree root that was wider than a road. The root went forward and met up with many other roots, forming a continuous platform on which grew an infinitesimal number of smaller trees. Gawr and I walked into the forest on top of the Tree's roots, gazing in wonder. I had been here twice before, but I always had the same reaction. Jaw dropping. We gazed upward, through the boughs of the smaller trees, and saw all of the branches above. I had always wondered what they meant. Since each life is a root, does that mean each branch is a god that contributed to the existence of Alexandria, and thus life? One day, I promised to myself, One day you'll climb up there and find out. After ogling at the views for several minutes, Gawr and I snapped back to reality. I had a job to do, and Gawr had a book to find.

I navigated us through the forest and Gawr was amazed to find that each tree was a bookshelf with books like the ones in his Library of Alexandria. He tried to walk away and just begin searching.

"Wait Gawr. Just because the place is peaceful doesn't mean it's safe." He looked at me, puzzled. "Wandering in here can get a person lost forever. There is a literal infinity of books in here. The odds you find it by aimlessly searching is infinity to one. I don't like those odds."

"So where are we going then? Can you just guide me to my book?" I shook my head.

"I have no jurisdiction here. I can't even communicate with higher ups while I'm here. We need to get to the trunk of the Tree to find the Head Sprite." Gawr nodded, and for the last time, we started walking.

It wasn't a long walk. Maybe fifteen minutes. Over that time me and Gawr just talked. We talked about our adventure over the last couple of days, and how we'd probably have to do it all over again to get back. We laughed, we teared up. We didn't know that this was our last walk together, but deep down I think we both somehow felt it. We arrived at the trunk of Yggdrasil Progenitor.

The trunk is very massive. Kilometers and kilometers in diameter. The Head Sprite usually did a patrol around it, but it could take hours for them to show. Luckily the last time I was here I was taught how to get the Head Sprite's attention. I put my fingers in my mouth and whistled with all of my might. In the matter of a few seconds, a flying creature landed in front of Gawr and I.

The Head Sprite's preferred form was a six meter tall mass of tentacles with human feet and enormous insect wings to fly with. They landed in front of us, offering a greeting.

"Hello Francis Barnabus Pann, Guidance Officer of the Serpent, and hello Gawr Laor, brother." I didn't think I'd caught the last part correctly. I looked over to Gawr who was staring up at the Sprite in awe. The Sprite shifted into the shape of a human girl with floating chains for hair. It reached out its arm and touched Gawr on the forehead. I saw a spark of light, and then Gawr's form started getting fuzzy and out of focus. Then he began shifting rapidly into all manners of creatures. Enormous insects, anthropomorphic plants, tiny elephants. He morphed over and over so quickly until he suddenly paused on a form. It was his original form. He turned to me.

"Frank… I know now." I stared at him blankly. I was stunned. What had I just seen occur? "I am one of them Frank. I'm one of Alexandria's servants. One of the Sprites." I stammered slightly and turned to the head Sprite.

"I thought… I thought there were only nineteen. Why…?"

"Francis," the Sprite began, "Your last visit so long ago reminded Alexandria of our mortality. We are still just creatures. So, we chose a birth in a random world in a random universe and made it so a Sprite would be born. We needed another, in case a similar situation to the last occurred, and you weren't around to save one of our own." I nodded slowly, understanding but not fully comprehending. I turned to Gawr.

"So when you saved me? Did you know?"

"No, I didn't. I had never shape-shifted before. But Arzreial just showed me my lineage, and I suppose that this apple doesn't fall far from the Tree." I chuckled slightly at that.

"So I suppose you won't be needing me to guide you back?" Gawr shook his head. I turned to the head Sprite. "So was it you? Are you the one who set up those beds in the shelves?" The Sprite shook its head.

"That was none of my brothers. I know who it was, but it is not my place to reveal them to you." The Head Sprite looked at Gawr and said, "It is not your place either." Gawr nodded at the Sprite and gave me an apologetic glance. I threw up my arms in annoyance. "He will reveal himself in time," the Sprite said.

"Alrighty. So, is this it Gawr? Are you gonna have to stay here for the rest of your life?" Gawr looked at his feet and I could hear him choking back tears.

"It seems so Frank. As a Sprite, once within the domain of Yggdrasil, I am bound here forever. But don't worry about home. They new the whole time. The minotaurs are one of Alexandria's blessed people. They won't be missing me." I saw a tear fall down his face. I nodded solemnly. "However," Gawr said, lightening up a little and wiping away the tear, "I can give you something so you can visit me." Gawr put his hands together and closed his eyes. He slowly moved his hands apart and floating in between them was a tiny seed. Gawr opened his eyes and handed the seed to me.

"What does it do?"

"Whenever you want to see me, just bite the seed. Make sure that you are standing in dirt when you do it." I nodded and slipped the seed into my pocket. We stood there in silence for a few moments. I meditated for a moment on the implications of everything I just learned.

"I suppose this is it then." I held my hand out to Gawr who reached out and shook it. With my other hand I grabbed the back of his neck and brought his forehead to mine. I touched his mind with mine and formed a link. "If you ever have need of me Gawr, focus on me and you can summon me and I will come at a moment's notice." After a final hug, the Head Sprite interjected.

"Well, Francis, to avoid you having to trek all of the way back to the Main Hall by yourself, I have received a mote of power from the Serpent herself to send you through the Library. Good day, Pann." Pann. Huh. No one ever called me that.

I glanced at Gawr one last time. Then I blinked and found myself sitting in my desk in the Main Hall. I looked over to the Archivist who had ordered me to take Gawr. We made eye contact and the Archivist raised an eyebrow. I nodded. That bastard had known all along.

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