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The Library at the End of Time (short story inspired by Crows and Vessels system)


Rikutatis
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The Library at the End of Time

 

 

Somewhere in the dark hidden spaces between Eternal Kingdoms is the Library at the End of Time. Some Crows hear rumors and tall tales about this place, but few actually find its secret entrances.

 

The Caretaker walks through the empty halls slowly, methodically. The light of the torch in his hand casts twisted shadows here and there, dark playful things that would appear to have a life of their own.

 

He broods as he walks on.

 

***

 

He opened his eyes. The bright light of the sun bathed him in warmth and hope. Here he was at last. The magnificent capital of the Centaur Empire. Glittering towers reached into the skies all around him, as far as the eye could see. A prestigious job and a bright future waited for him at the Senate.

 

It was a dream come true. It felt like he was walking in a city of gods, something far more colossal than he ever imagined.  How did he get here? It happened so fast. But more important than all this, she waited for him. His soul mate, the love of his life. She waited for him. She was his and he was hers. He felt like he was at the peak of happiness and achievement. Anything was possible from now on.

 

***

 

A cold spiral staircase, descending into the darkness. The Caretaker trudges on, suddenly summoned back from his reverie. The memories were befuddled, there was a thick fog clouding his mind. Different names, sounds, colors and smells. They all blended in. For the most part, the memories were painful. They reminded him of a Time to which he could never return.

 

***

 

She opened her eyes. All around her was an endless expanse of unrelenting ice. Her home. Dead bodies and dry blood broke the white monotony of those southern lands. Broken standards were a reminder of crushed hope and dead ideals.

 

The Frostweaver picked through the dead bodies like a crow, salvaging arms and provisions. She felt exposed in the open fields; every creature that prowled those lands was a potential threat. Every person she crossed paths with could mean the end of her life.

 

The sound of ice cracking. The Frostweaver leapt back into her feet and deadly magic instantly danced around her hands. She was surrounded. Three hardened soldiers wearing battered armor and wielding worn weapons slowly approached, a hunger in their eyes. The adrenalin rushed through her body like a familiar drug, her heart thumping so loud that it felt like it might explode any moment.

 

From afar she could notice a thick deadly fog slowly creeping its way towards them. There was a certain feeling of resignation then, a subconscious understanding that no matter how many enemies you kill, no matter how far you travel or which victories you achieve, in the end there is no escaping the Hunger. It felt... almost like a relief. With a war cry the Frostweaver lunged herself at the enemies.

 

***

 

The Caretaker pauses in front of the majestic door. He sighs, feeling dread every time he must go inside the main Library. Every single day, for the past several centuries, he has gone through this. And today is no different. This is his duty and his penance. He is a servant of Yaga, the goddess of knowledge, of all things known and unknown.

 

With one last sigh he pushes the door open.

 

***

 

The once magnificent capital of the Centaur Empire was now surrounded by the Hunger, which continued to encroach. The thick deadly fog hung heavy in the air. Towers crumbled and fell, skirmishes broke out in the streets and Yaga the reaper of souls watched it all from afar.

 

But a battle far more personal was waged in the sleeping chambers of a nondescript house. She was his soul mate, the love of his life. How could they have grown so apart? His prestigious job in the Senate seemed to matter so little to him, now that everything hung by a thread.

 

They argued and fought. They yelled and raged, they accused each other of terrible things... some of which were even true. At that time, his mind was too clouded to realize it, but that was the turning point. That moment in life when you go down a certain path and open a certain door... a point of no return. When a decision is made that you cannot unmake, and everything changes as a result. You emerge as a different being. And after that all the colors are muted.

 

He stormed out of the house, alone. The Hunger crept in every alley and every street now. The city was overtaken; this was the end of times.

 

And the young Centaur cried. He sat on the sidewalk and cried. That would be the last time he ever shed a tear. For soon afterwards Yaga loomed over him. Blind Yaga, the goddess of magic and death. She collected his final dying breath and gave him a new eternal existence as a Crow.

 

***

 

The Caretaker is inside the main Library. But there are no books to be seen anywhere. Only lifeless bodies. Vessels, to be used by the immortal souls of the Crows.

 

Slowly, he walks among the endless rows of inert bodies. There must be hundreds of them, perhaps thousands? Lifeless bodies, fragmented memories, so many stories untold. So much knowledge.

 

The Caretaker had worn countless of those bodies over the centuries. He meticulously hand crafted quite a few of them himself. The raw material of dead flesh gave way to artful masterpieces. Necromancer, some called him.

 

He could see the body of a young Centaur, right next to a female Frostweaver. Was the young Centaur his first, original life? Or was it the Frostweaver? He couldn't remember, and it didn't seem to matter anymore. It felt like he had lived so many different lives, like he had seen more than any mortal was ever supposed to.

 

All the conflicting fragmented memories blended together, painfully. The Caretaker no longer knew who he truly was. There was no purpose, only duty. There was no death, only eternity. There was no hope, only the Hunger.

 

 

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