A Star in Her Palm It was dark, nighttime, and Me paused to look up. The stars glowed weakly through the hazy sky, and the winds blew off the mountains and drove towering storm clouds before them down into the valley. Streaks of blue lightning flashed from the earth to the sky. Around Me, people pulled their coats tight and hurried indoors, but he stood for a few moments more to gaze at the heavens, before they were completely obscured. The street emptied. Me was alone. He turned to stare at the tall brick building that rose up before him. It had no windows, and only a single large door, crossed with heavy iron bars. A light glowed from the roof. Someone leaned over to look at Me. The flame of the guardâ€™s torch whipped back and forth in the wind. Me slouched his shoulders, walked to the side, toward a tavern that flickered from within with the warm glow of a fireplace, until he was enveloped in the shadows of the other storefronts. After pausing for a moment, Me doubled back toward the brick building, but he halted before reaching the door. The guard on the roof still lingered over the front. The man cast his light this way and that and peered into the night. Me leaned against the wall and waited. The clouds gushing down from the mountain arrived over the town, and drops of heavy rain began to splatter on the street. The guard withdrew. The street was dark. Me immediately stole up to the door and placed his hand on the frame. It was solid and secure, locked from within, but he pressed a palm against the wood and it passed through, followed by his arm as he leaned forward. Through the door, between the iron cross bars, Me slipped his body, and put it back together again when he was through. He stood inside the building. The front room was dim, bare save for a single desk placed before another door. Me checked the handle and found that it, too, was locked, but he easily passed through the wood. A long brick passage opened before him. Other passages intersected it at regular distances, and Me reached around his body and pulled forward his satchel. He adjusted the opening and turned into the nearest cross corridor. The walls were lined with shelves, and the shelves were lined with books, tens of thousands, brown spines facing outwards. Me flicked a hand between his eyes, and suddenly golden leaf letters gleamed in the dark. Under Meâ€™s extraordinary vision, certain titles blazed brightly, white and silver. These were the ones that the Library needed him to acquire. Me reached for the first one, right at his side, just barely brushed the spine with his fingertips and then slowly pulled back. The volume slipped from the shelf onto the open palm of his other hand, and he immediately deposited it into his satchel. On the shelf rested the original copy, safe and secure, the lettering on the spine dimming away into a dull gold. Me moved to the next book and pulled its copy into his satchel, and like this he moved down the passage. His satchel swallowed each book, yet became neither heavy nor bulky. Each volume simply disappeared into its soft narrow maw. The night outside passed, wind howling, rain pattering on rooftops, and Me felt the glimmering sparks of the sleeping townspeople meandering through their dreamworlds. He worked without pause, stopping only once, when footsteps sounded in a distant corridor. Me drifted into the shadows and saw the night watchman pass nearby. The fellow held his lantern high and stared down each corridor, but he did not see Me, standing just a few feet before his face. The man sniffed a few times but left. Me resumed his task, wandering through the entire library, taking copies of the books he needed, and by morningâ€™s arrival he was finished. He heard the librarians on the levels above awakening, and although, as usual, Me would have liked to linger and see them, to break bread and talk to them, he felt the irresistible tugging at the back of his head. Me had to leave. He had no choice. He ran to the nearest door, closed, and pressed his hands against its surface, pushed himself through. The opposite side was somewhere else, not inside a tiny little library located on a world on the fringes of existence, but deep within one of the mightiest constructions in all of creation: The Great Library, archetype and quintessence. All that could ever be known was stored in incomprehensible vaults hidden between the curves and folds of reality. Me was but a gatherer, a tiny cog in the eternal machine of the Library. Me stood in one of the receiving rooms, an immense chamber supported by thin, curling, columns that reached up high over his head into a shimmering yellow fog. The milky columns marched away from Me in every direction, disappearing into shadows in the far distance. Shafts of hot white light glowed down from breaks in the mist above and fell on lines of gatherers, like Me, all shuffling in long and twisting queues around the columns toward the distant receiving plaza. Me had arrived in his proper position, already in line, and he waited quietly behind one gatherer, a glittering creature of glass, and before yet another one, a fleshy being much like himself. They did not speak to each other, for silence was the rule of the Library, and the only sound to be heard was the slapping of feet, hooves, pseudo-pods against the floor as each made their way forward to the receiving plaza. There were more gatherers than could be counted, snaking through the chamber in loops and whorls. Each gatherer was assigned to but one world, and each held a satchel filled with books or scrolls or strips or monofilaments or electron plates, and Me shuddered to think that this was only one receiving room inside the Library. Elsewhereâ€”he did not understand exactly where or howâ€”there were an infinite number of areas just like this one, each whipping in multiple dimensions away from the great central shaft of the Library, which itself twisted through the curves and little spaces of this universe, and right through to the next one and the ones beyond. Such a structure as the Library could not, of course, be ruled by the localized laws of time or space; and Me was not surprised to discover that, while one moment he was thick in the endless throng of gatherers, the next he stood at the head of the queue, at the edge of the receiving plaza, so wide that Me could not see the other side. It was bordered by heavy black tables, behind which stood the receivers, and overhead fluttered the mighty wings of the carriers. On the tables was spread the bounty of a billion billion worlds, books in numbers so immense, stacked and piled neatly, that Meâ€™s limited mind, shocked, recoiled and forced him to attend only to the task at hand. The receiver across from Me was a huge being, towering at least three times his height. A mass of arms and faces sprouted from the central body, and one set of arms reached toward Me and gestured. He handed over his satchel, and the hands eagerly pulled the flap open and began to draw out the many books within. They were arranged on the table by the first pair of hands, while still others removed them and passed the volumes on up the body, holding them open before the many faces. In this way the books traveled to uppermost pair of hands, read and studied and catalogued completely, to be handed to the nearest carrier, who, with a flap of wings, darted overhead to add the book to the infinite archive. The beating wings were the only sound to be heard, the endless flight of the carriers into the steaming mists above. The receiver emptied the satchel and handed it back to Me, along with a golden card. Me accepted it and nodded his head, but the receiver had already summoned the next gatherer and taken her satchel. Me held the card tightly in his grip, and a gray haze rose up around this body. He lifted his face to stare above, to try the pierce the unreachable heights with his gaze, but the fog churned up over his eyes and his mind. After but a moment it was gone, the fog, and Me blinked in the bright sunlight of a clear and blue day. A beautiful verdant minaret shot up before him, and he recognized the Royal Library of Travincal. # Gatherers were assigned to one world, and one world only, but they ranged through every corner and continent, and also through every age and epoch. Me had seen libraries great and small, proud and humble. He had visited the same ones over and over again, taking new books, taking new editions of books already gathered, taking copies into which someone had added interesting marginalia. Libraries, Me had discovered, were as mutable as living creatures. One moment a collection was bursting with books, the next it was burned and gutted, the next it was new, the stacks slight and bare, as Me jumped from era to era, from thatched huts to stone towers to gleaming spires that floated a thousand feet above the earth, around wars and death and long stretches of tranquility and happiness. He did not know the name of this world, but he knew its people. He had seen written large on their faces their hopes and losses and pains. He had heard them talking, shouting, singing, praying, children playing and old folks dying, and through all of this he had moved silently, a lowly witness to every glory and humiliation. Me walked through the Royal Library at Travincal, and then he walked through it again, and then he visited Kawar, and Jlitin and Opashal, dusty corridors and books and scrolls in an never-ending stream inside Meâ€™s mind. The receivers took his acquisitions and piled them on the tables and handed him new cards, around which he wrapped his hand, and then the fogs roiled around his head and transported him to the next library. Meâ€™s was an eternal task. He could not remember being anything other than he was. His task was all. Me imagined being tired, or bored, of his work, like the people he often saw, but he truly could not decide if he was capable of such feelings. Sometimes he wondered if there could ever be an end to it, the ceaseless gathering. He wanted to ask his fellow gatherers, as they stood in queue, to see if they felt the same way, but silence was the rule. His tongue was frozen. Another satchel, another receiver, and another card, but when his eyes were clear again, Me opened his mouth and moaned in wonder. This was someplace new. The sky overhead was crimson, streaked with bands of ebon smoke burping from vents that reached into the sky near the horizon. Dark buildings, heavy and horrid, surrounded a central square in which was mounted the tall statue of a creature that Me had never seen before. It was squat and multilegged, and the white stone dripped with thick moisture that landed in heavy drops on the ground below and hissed. Me heard voices, deep and harsh. He ducked into the nearest shadows and leaned against the wall. He saw entering the square a column of short grotesqueries, beings with faces and limbs twisted into bizarre shapes, horns jutting from chins and shoulder and knees. Spitting and gurgling, the monsters crossed through the plaza, and Meâ€™s mind raced with confusion. He held his hand before his face and saw that it had not changed. He was still shaped as one of the inhabitants of his assigned world, and, indeed, he could sense inwardly that he was on that world. Its life pulsed through his body, his spirit adjusted to its energies and currents over the long course of his work. Had Me arrived at a heretofore unknown period of its history, either in its ancient past or far future? He did not think that was likely, but he knew of a way to be sure. Me stole away from the wall and out into the middle of the now-empty plaza. Through all of Meâ€™s meanderings through time and space, his only constant had been the sky. The stars had been his companions, changing slowly over the millennia, shifting with the seasons and the continents, sometimes bursting forth into supernovae, yet, with practice, he had learned to spot the same anchors in every gaze above. The pole stars, the constellations, they had always told Me exactly when and where he was. He looked up, but smoke and smog obscured his vision. Me concentrated, squinting, and his pupils opened wide to let in every stray photon. He caught the faintest glimmers of the brightest stars, and they were the ones that he knew. This was the same world. Me felt the tugging at the back of his head, the reminder from his omniscient employer that there was work to be done. This place would have to remain a mystery. He rotated about in a circle and spotted the telltale signs of an archive, an especially massive building, with smooth black columns supporting a pediment etched with dark and disturbing figures. Doors between the two central columns were thrown wide open. Me glanced around the plaza. It was empty. With loping steps he ran toward the doors and darted inside to discover a grand entry, with a floor of blood-red marble and more ebon columns holding a ceiling high above. An immense chandelier hung down on rusted chains, and a hundred candles placed around its edge flickered red in a slight breeze. Double stairs led to a balcony, and Me spotted beyond the railing the stacks of books. They were wrapped in supple black hide, and all of the titles blazed brightly in Meâ€™s vision. The Library had none of these books. Me felt a rush of excitement. He couldnâ€™t remember ever seeing an entire collection entirely unknown to his masters. He silently closed the doors looking out at the plaza and then leaped up the steps. The stacks extended on the upper level far back into the heart of the building, toward a large vaulted room, which in turn opened to multiple levels of corridors, all lined with shelves. Me picked a corridor and began to draw copies of the books from the shelves. He slipped them all into his bag, every now and then glancing down at the covers. They were scribbled with odd characters, a type that he had never seen before. The receivers would decode them, then imbue Me with their knowledge, but for now all Me could do was guess at the subject matter within these many volumes as each disappeared within the manifolds of his satchel. He followed the passageway away from the central hall, away from the front door, toward what must have been the rear of the building. A single candle placed in a sconce burned weakly, and patterns of orange light fell over Meâ€™s arms and hands as they worked silently among the books. He counted, one hundred, two hundred, five hundred, and Me started to wonder how long he would have to spend at this library, and, more importantly, when the owners would return. Me did not imagine that they were pleasant beings. Something creaked, very near. Me spun around to glance behind him, to see only a long empty corridor. He pressed his back against the shelves and melded into the slight shadows along their edges and listened. The sound did not return, but Me felt it, instead, a creeping, flowing essence in the next corridor over. He stood frozen, against the wall, extending all of his senses toward the intruder, but, no matter how hard Me tried, he could not define it. It had no shape, no size, no smell, only an indefinable, shambling aura, that halted just opposite where Me hid. He waited, but the thing did not move. Me felt it expand and contract, as if breathing, but it made no sound. The thing did not draw in air; it affected the very reality around it, cinching it close and pushing out again, and Me felt the essence in his mind, pulsing with each beat of whatever heart it had. Me ran, bursting from the shadows down the middle of the corridor on silent feet. He left the thing behind him, ran back toward the entry hall. The great black doors were still shut below the balcony, and Me leaped over the banister to land on the marble floor below, but then the room disappeared, wafting away with a black cloud that suddenly filled his vision. He leaned his body forward to try to push through. He landed hard on a surface below his feet and stumbled forward. The door was right ahead. All Me had to do was touch it, to return to a receiving chamber inside the Library. He ran, arms outstretched, his steps sure and solid, but the door wasnâ€™t where it should have been. The fog swept over Meâ€™s head, becoming heavy and solid around his neck, and he clawed at his skin. His fingers ripped through the mist, thick and viscous, but it quickly reformed to repair itself, spread up over his mouth and nose. He fell to his knees. â€œDonâ€™t move,â€ a voice, awful and rumbling, said from beyond the darkness. Me leaned forward and placed his hands against the ground. The mist halted its advance over his body, and he waited. He waited as the being behind him slowly slid forward through the library, down the steps and right behind him. Its terrible breathing grew stronger and stronger, until every molecule of Meâ€™s body quivered with its pulse. The darkness over his eyes pulled away, and Me saw that the library was gone. He sat back on his haunches and stared up into a huge rocky chamber, glowing crimson from fires that descended down from the craggy ceiling far above. The ground was a vast sheet of obsidian, broken along fault lines into razor sharp cracks that gleamed red. â€œFinally, I have you,â€ the voice said. Me twisted his neck around to see the speaker. It was the being from the library, but now in flesh and bone, a towering mass of pasty white legs and tentacles, dull carapaces and antennae. A leering face jutted from the fore body and lowered itself to look into Meâ€™s eyes. The mouth opened to reveal a mass of squirming insects, and it uttered, â€œBut now that I have you, I find myself quite unsure as to what you are.â€ The voice howled, with fire, with crumbling stone, with snapping bone, of wrack wrought by malice and neglect. Destruction, the grinding of teeth and time, echoed in that voice, through the entire cavern and into Meâ€™s head. He tried to shift away from it. The creature grinned. It lowered, sitting on its body, and an arm waggled at Me to indicate that he should do the same. He slowly turned around and rested his weight on his knees. The mist formed into a hot iron collar around his neck and weighed his head down. He lifted his eyes to stare at the creature. â€œI am Destruction,â€ it announced from deep inside its body, its voice shaking the room. â€œThe Great Death of Heat, Father of Fear, Mother of Misery, all crumble before my advance, and all reality is my domain. Tell me, why have you intruded upon my realm?â€ Me stared down at his hands. Silence was the rule. Tentacles flopped toward him and wrenched the satchel from around his neck. â€œA thief, I must presume. Why else would you skulk though libraries, through all of time and space? Why else would you try to pilfer through my ancient archives?â€ Me glanced up. The creature spread its mouth in a rictus of humor. â€œIndeed, I have tracked you for countless years, fluttering like a moth like from light to another. Drawing you here to my own particular realm has not been easy, but how could I resist meeting such an interesting creature as yourself?â€ Recognition finally flickered in Meâ€™s mind, stories glimpsed of great primal evils that stalked the planet. Of course, Me knew that they were more than fables, had indeed faintly sensed their presence on previous occasions, and they had apparently sensed him, as well. It had to be an imperfect tracking, of course, for they were linear beings. They would be able to see Me leaping from one library to the next, but without understanding where he went in-between. He concentrated, and extended his senses to try to discern more about his captor. The being examined Meâ€™s satchel, holding it before its face and tugging it open with spindly hands. The interior was revealed, and the creature eagerly pushed its fingers inside, but then it scowled. â€œWhat manner of device is this?â€ It pushed the satchel toward Meâ€™s face to reveal that it was empty. â€œWhere are the books youâ€™ve stolen from me?â€ Me shrugged. He narrowed his senses and began to make out the lines of power that flowed through the being opposite him. They matched the patterns of the planet, tied the creature to its living essence. It tossed the satchel aside and lurched toward Me. Tentacles whipped around his body and wrapped like vises around his neck and torso. They dragged him close to the awful face, and insects dripped from its mouth and nostrils onto his skin. It hissed, â€œYou are too silent for my tastes. Perhaps I shall loosen your tongue.â€ A tentacle snaked up Meâ€™s body and onto his chin. It pressed against his lips and pushed past, but as soon as it began to enter the cavity of Meâ€™s mouth it recoiled violently back into the air. Blazing white light spilled from between his teeth and blinded the creature. Roaring, it dropped Me on the hard floor and jerked backwards. Hands flew up over its head. Me scrambled away over the sleek ground. An obsidian edge sliced into his hand, and the cut glimmered white in the dimness. He quickly found his feet and began to run, but the creature behind began to laugh. The ebon ground rose up around Me and blocked his path. Two ragged spikes shot forward and impaled his shoulders. Light spilling from the wounds, Me grunted and tried to push himself backwards, but a massive body slammed into his back and drove him ahead. His face pressed against the cold stone, but then the bulk of it began to sink back into the floor, leaving only two curving spikes in the air, from which Me dangled. The creature scooted around Me and faced him. Its mouth was twisted with rage. â€œThief! Spy! Tell me of Tyraelâ€™s plans!â€ Me closed his eyes to block out the hideous sight, and he concentrated on calming the pain ripping through his body. It took only a moment, and the fire from his shoulders faded into a slight glow. A hand wrapped itself around his chin and twisted his head backwards. He opened his eyes to see the pale face shoved up against his cheek. â€œYou are a powerful servant, I can see, but we have all of eternity here to find a suitable torture for you. Rest assured, I will make you suffer, but I can ease your pain, if you will only tell me of Tyraelâ€™s plan.â€ Me closed his eyes. Silence was the rule. The creature snorted, blasting his face with a spray of insects and muck, but the hand pulled away. Me heard shuffling. He cracked his eyelids open to see that the creature had moved, shifting around behind him. Feet scraped and chitin plates scratched, and it returned with Meâ€™s satchel in its hands. The creature, Destruction, sat on its haunches and examined the item. It ran its finger over the stitches, eyed every crease and corner with watery eyes. Me continued to watch the lines of power course through its body, and he expanded his senses to track them as they led out of this dark chamber and toward the world outside, and, indeed, it was the same world that Me knew so well and had visited so often; but he realized that the lines of power had been shifted. This was merely another version of the world, tied to the same anchor in the universe, but intersecting with the material planet that Me knew. He continued to cast about his senses, and he detected a third world, also linked to the first. Me could see them all, three planets floating through the void, shifting and shimmering as they shared the same bubble of reality. Even after so long, Me was only now just discovering this. He grimaced, to mask the smile that threatened to spread across his face. Surely, the Library knew of this phenomenon, just as surely as this strange creature had sensed Me and trapped him. Me would be retrieved, if only to deliver an incident report and collect the items in his satchel. He allowed himself a grin, finally. He would be able to break the rule of silence, to speak, to share words with a receiver. The creature continued to examine the satchel, but at the same time it held up a tentacle and made a sign in the air. Blue lines followed its motions, and when the sigil was completed, the ground shimmered and split open behind the creature. Churning black smoke rose up from the chasm, and a figure lifted from the depths. It was massive, easily as large as a receiver, and its body creaked and strained under taut red muscles. Hoofed feet pounded on the obsidian ground and cracked it, and a heavy tail lashed in the air. Me gazed up at the head. It was small and squat, faceless, save for a wide mouth lined with yellow teeth and a long pink tongue serrated with strips of bone. Blasts of burning air shot out from the monsterâ€™s gullet. The head slowly twisted down to gaze sightlessly at Me, and his mind was flooded with screams of torture and shock, a million souls shrieking out with fright. Me snapped his eyes closed, locking out the horrors and flooding his brain once again with silence. Destruction chuckled, â€œNone can withstand the gaze of Terror, and none can withhold their secrets from the Two. Tell us your mission, spy, and we shall make your demise quick and painless.â€ The ground shuddered, and shook with a mighty crash that quivered the spikes impaling Meâ€™s shoulders. He dared to crack his eyes open and saw that the red one, Terror, had sat down next to Destruction. They both leaned over Meâ€™s satchel, and he couldnâ€™t help but smile at the sight of two such grandiosely-named being, huddling over his pack like children. â€œThere are folds inside,â€ Destruction announced. â€œI can see them. They can hide a vast quantity. This is how the spy could steal so many of our secrets.â€ Terror merely nodded, its tendons and muscles snapping with the effort. Destruction skittered forward. â€œHow did Tyrael make this trinket, spy?â€ Like a child, Me thought, begging for a scrap of food, begging for wisdom that it could not understand. â€œHow?â€ Me opened his mouth, the white radiance from within gleaming on the creatureâ€™s face, and he did something that he had never done before. He laughed, laughed loudly and awkwardly, his chest heaving and his neck convulsing, and the sound of his own voice rang wonderfully in his ears. A tear slipped free from Meâ€™s eye and rolled down his cheek. Destruction was livid. It grabbed Meâ€™s neck and squeezed, sharp fingernails digging into his flesh and cutting, letting loose little slivers of light. Its voice rose to fill the entire cavern, â€œYou shall suffer until the end of time for mocking me!â€ Me only grinned. He croaked, his tongue slow, forming words only thought for such long ages, â€œYou do not understand.â€ â€œNow you speak!â€ Destruction grunted. â€œBut only to seal your own doom, a life of everlasting pain.â€ Me felt something familiar, at the back of his head, an insistent tugging. He was finally being recalled to the Library. They would pull him back forcibly if he did not soon open a portal on his own. His smile spread wide across his face. â€œYou are like infants,â€ he moaned, â€œplaying under the gaze of powers that you cannot even see.â€ The red one sat up rigidly and made a motion with its hand. Its companion nodded, and said, â€œI can see it. They are trying to draw him back. We must be bold and daring, brother!â€ Destruction released Me and held up the satchel again. It held it open, out toward Terror. â€œWe can travel back to Tyraelâ€™s own sanctum, inside the spyâ€™s device. Deep inside their own citadel, we can wreck havoc on his plans. Inside, brother!â€ Terror shot forward his arm, into the satchel, which expanded and swallowed the monsterâ€™s bulk up the shoulder, and then its head and body. After but a moment, the tip of its tail disappeared into the infinite space inside the bag, and Destruction smiled down at the object, once again its original size. The creature turned toward Me and slung the satchel over his neck. â€œTyraelâ€™s own cowardly plots shall be his undoing,â€ Destruction laughed, and it began to slip its arms and tentacles into the satchel. Legs stepped inside, and the rear of its body, also, but the head remained hovering before Meâ€™s face. The line from the Library grew more taut and urgent, and Me began to feel his entire essence being pulled through the back of his head to travel along its winding path. â€œYou,â€ Destruction vowed, its head finally vanishing into the satchel, â€œwill receive a special fate in my dungeons. Your agony will be sweet and delicious to me.â€ It smiled, a line of insects that collapsed into the interior of the satchel, and then Me himself collapsed, into the line, and he became plasma and electricity without sense or form, in darkness. He opened his eyes under the columns of the receiving chamber, in a queue of a billion gatherers. His satchel began to squirm and bulge, and Me gaped down at it, a warning cry rising in his throat, but his mind flashed and he was at the head of the queue and standing opposite a mighty receiver, which only glanced at Me for a moment and whipped one of its hands across the table onto his head. Another flash, and Me was in the middle of the vast central plaza, but he flashed again, up into the shimmering air, surrounded by hovering carriers. On and on he went, flashing, being held aloft by one carrier after another, each lifting him higher into the glow above. He gazed up, finally seeing beyond the light, into the very heart of the Great Library. He stretched out his hands over his head to touch it. Me landed on a surface, sprawled along its coldness. The satchel, pulsing, rolled away from him. Silence pressed in around him from every side, and for a moment he was still. Finally, Me pushed himself up on his arms and looked. A round glass platform floated in a sea of dark air. There was absolutely nothing to see, save in the far distance, a wall, radiating a deep blue like the ocean, but smooth and silent. It was quite simply the largest object that Me had ever seen, or would ever see, a wall so immense that its outer edges merged with the horizons in the unfathomable distance. The vast surface looked completely flat, but Me knew that it wasnâ€™t. It was curved; ever so imperceptibly, it was curved Me squinted. There was no way to tell how far away the wall was, but he began to make out tiny figures, little more than dots, darting over the its surface. Carriers fluttered everywhere, and each held a book or scroll or volume, to be placed here, inside the heart of the Library. He staggered to his feet but immediately collapsed again, bowed down by the immensity of the vision. The wall, the massive curving wall that dwarfed all else, contained the shelves of the Library, and this could only be the most minute fraction of the central shaft. It stretched around Me into a limitless column, and then from one end of the universe to the other, and then into the universes beyond, through every plane of existence. It was an infinite amount of space, to contain an infinite number of books, and the incomprehensible trillions crushed down on Meâ€™s mind. He held his head in his hands and leaned forward. The satchel sat before Me, and as he watched it expanded, the seams snapping and ripping. A mighty red arm pushed through, followed by the rippling body of Terror. It stepped out onto the platform and bellowed, flexing its arms for battle. The many books that had been stored inside spilled onto the platform. Some tumbled off, into the void. The other creature, Destruction, followed quickly, hopping free of the ruined bag and sliding away through the volumes, its dark eyes narrow and cruel. It cried, â€œTyrael!â€ However, as both creatures noticed their surroundings, they fell silent. Terror cowed, and stepped back toward the middle of the platform. Destruction moved to hide under its shadow. It saw Me and shot a tentacle toward him, dragged him across the clear surface. â€œWhat deception is this?â€ Destruction demanded. â€œWhere is the Citadel? Where is Tyrael?â€ Me only shook his head, but the tentacles wrapped around his neck and began to crush. They squeezed ever tighter, actually beginning to cut off the light within that fueled Me. He grasped the tentacles with his hands and tried to pull them off. Destruction leered. Terror made a large motion with its hand, reaching behind to grab Destructionâ€™s body. â€œWhat?â€ Destruction snapped. It turned away from Me to face Terror. Both creatures lifted their heads to stare up, at a light that was descending down toward them. The coils around Meâ€™s neck loosened, and he wrenched himself free and rolled away toward the edge of the platform. He crouched on his knees and looked through his fingers at the glowing point. It pulsed with many colors, cycling through the spectrum visible and invisible, casting multicolored shadows across the bodies on the platform. The point grew in size and lengthened, taking on shape and substance, until finally it rested over the surface of the platform in a form much like Meâ€™s, but taller, and willowy, feminine. Long silver hair drifted about her head and body, all the way down to her feet, and her bare skin glowed with a bright inner radiance. Over her face, from hairline to chin, she wore a mask, and it was a smooth, curved mirror. Me saw his reflection on it, saw himself cowering in a ball, and also saw the faces of the Two, finally frightened and awed. The slight figure stood with her arms floating, as if she were swimming through the air, and she merely stared at the trio on the platform for a long, silent moment. Destruction, finally finding its voice, ambled forward, and snorted, â€œWhere are we? What are you?â€ The figureâ€™s voice emanated from the wall behind her. It was rhythmic and powerful, and left every atom of Meâ€™s being quivering in response: â€œThis is the Great Library. I am the Librarian.â€ Meâ€™s mouth fell open. The Librarian! A being such as Me had no expectation of ever seeing the great maker and administrator of the Library, of being in the presence of one so mighty, so divine. He spread himself prostrate on the platform. Destruction could not appreciate the situation. It spat, â€œBring forth Tyrael! Tell him that he cannot hide forever behind his illusions and sniveling slaves!â€ â€œVery few beings ever discover the Library,â€ the Librarian said, tilting her head to the side, scrutinizing the two creatures. â€œFewer still ever find their way inside. You are unique among these.â€ She raised her hand, palm upwards, and as the three others watched silently, a large blazing orb exploded over her white skin. It glowed red and orange, spitting out streamers of plasma and great gusts of heat and magnetism that spread outwards past the Two, all the way to Me. A star, a perfect illusion of a star, but more than that, Me knew. It was an actual star, plucked from the heavens, or recreated, over her palm. The burning globe began to quiver, and it shifted to the side, far away toward the distant wall, and over her palm a small green-blue planet appeared. Clouds wrapped over its surface, and tiny flashes of electricity high in the atmosphere shimmered before Meâ€™s eyes. The planet became hazy, and another replaced it. A red and fiery place, obscured by dark smoke, but then it was gone, too, and a third planet appeared, white and crystalline, sparkling in the light of its sun. The cycle repeated, the material planet followed by the fiery one followed by the shining one. â€œThree worlds in one,â€ the Librarian said. â€œsharing the same space, tied together for all of time. Your world.â€ Destruction rose up. â€œWhat foolishness! The Divine Hells are anchored in the upper planes of reality, toward Perfection! Terror, crush this blasphemer.â€ The crimson brute smiled and stomped forward. A massive fist lifted into the air over the Librarian, and Me let out a strangled cry as it fell onto her. She merely passed through the flesh of the creature like a mist, drifting apart momentarily but then reforming within an instant. The Librarian snapped her palm shut, whisking the star and its planets back to their proper places in the firmament, and she shook her head, said mournfully, â€œYou cannot harm me.â€ â€œCannot?â€ Destruction bellowed. â€œMountains crumble before me! Oceans boil away under my gaze! Death himself cannot stand my presence!â€ â€œThese things are nothing me,â€ the Librarian said, waving her hand through the air. â€œYou cannot harm me.â€ The Two rushed at her. Fire belched from their bellies, ice shot from their fingers, but these attacks merely went through her without effect. Tentacles grabbed air, fists pounded nothingness. The Librarian drifted away from the creatures and toward Me, on the other side of the platform. He saw his face growing larger on her mirror mask, and he covered his head with his arms. He heard the attacks cease, the roars of anger and frustration. â€œWhat is this place?â€ Destruction cried. â€œWhere is Tyrael?â€ The Librarian did not answer. Me felt her very close, kneeling next to him. She leaned over. Her hair brushed his skin. He felt it, the lightest touch possible, energizing him and suffusing him with tranquility and power. She said, â€œLook up.â€ Me lifted his head. His own face stared back at him. He was surrounded by the glow and the hair of the Librarian, but beyond he could see the Two storming on the far end of the platform, somehow confined to tiny spaces, which they beat against with their bodies. The Librarian stretched out her hand and took Meâ€™s chin. She lifted it up close to her face. â€œDo you remember being a child, Me?â€ â€œI am as I have always been, Librarian.â€ She shook her head, stroked his cheek with her other hand. â€œYou are a child of that world. You are a child, lost and lonely, and we bring you here. You sit on my lap and you are happy.â€ Her voice was a soothing song, layer upon layer upon layer, echoing back and forth in Meâ€™s brain. Had she already told him this? It seemed so familiar. She sighed, â€œYou are a man, and you return to do my work, but you are still a child, and that is how you will always be. You the child are with me right now, past now, forever now. You will always be that child, now and now and now, and that comforts me.â€ She had said all of this before. Me knew that, but he was suddenly very frightened. There had been something wrong when she said this to him. â€œI donâ€™t understand, Librarian.â€ She said, very softly, directly into his mind, â€œSilence is the rule, Me.â€ His eyes opened wide. He saw them on her mask. He saw a tear slip down his face. â€œNo. Please, no.â€ This was what he remembered. The Librarian brushed his eyelids. â€œI must follow my own laws. That is my limitation, Me. Silence is the rule.â€ Me crawled to his knees and clutched at her arms. He begged her, â€œI didnâ€™t mean to. I had to. Please, Librarian!â€ â€œI must send you back with these creatures, the ones you spoke to, but I send you back to their beginning. You take your place among them as a being of power. This is your punishment.â€ Me began to sob, â€œNo, no. I canâ€™t.â€ She pulled him close and embraced him. â€œYou forget this place. You already forget it. Minds such as these do not remember the glory of the Library, but you hunger for the memory. Something is lost inside of you, and always you search for it, and always libraries haunt you and draw you, please you and pain you.â€ The Librarian lifted Me to his feet. She touched his forehead with a finger, and as she pulled it back he saw something white and misty being drawn from him. He opened his mouth, but his tongue was dumb, frozen. All he could see was his face, blank and dull, gaping back at him on her mask. She said, â€œYou are in a dark place, a very dark place, and you are a child again, lost and lonely. A tiny being finds you. This little creature of dust brings you death, and you are finally happy. You are a child on my lap.â€ The Librarian crossed her wrists before her neck and then reached back to grasp the edges of her mask. She drew it away for Me to see, to see her beautiful radiant face, that glowed ever brighter until it contained the light of a billion suns. It was too much to behold. He held up his hand and closed his eyes. He blinked, blinked again in the darkness, at something teasing the edges of his consciousness. He woke, jerked up in his chair, but the dreams were already gone, dissipated into nothing. He could never remember his dreams. It felt like something was missing because he couldnâ€™t remember, something vital. He ran a hand over his face and glanced down at the table. He saw the scrolls, the scrolls that Bremm had pilfered from the lower levels of this ruined library. â€œStrange writing,â€ the idiotic servant had hissed before shuffling out of the dark chamber. â€œMaybe the master can find something useful.â€ He spread the paper over the desk with gnarled hands, his twisted hands, and sighed. He hated the feel of the vellum against his skin, the smell of the ink, the millions of pathetic banalities that he had to scour to find one useful nugget. He often laughed aloud, uncontrollably, at the futility of it all. How easy it would be to follow his brothers down the paths of terror and destruction, into mindlessness and self-gratification, but he could not. He dared not. There had to be something, somewhere, to help him catch his dreams. He had to catch that thing that always slipped away when he awoke. Every passing day it grew dimmer and dimmer. He had to keep looking for something that he would never find.