Journal Entry 5: The Library
“How did we come to live like this?”
Melmoth raised his head at my question. The old servant wore a habitually weary expression, suggesting anything I had to ask had been asked before. He was at home here amongst the tower’s repository of writings. “Such an answer is not best earned through storytelling,” he said. “You still have much to read.”
I raised my eyes to our audience; shelf upon shelf of books, ascending far into the darkness above. Lanterns and glowstones were spread around at intervals, providing enough light to study without unintended distraction. “If I am to go through all this before I find answers, I fear I will die in here,” I said.
“Some folk would consider that a privilege.”
“Perhaps, but I do not think the elders brought me here for that reason.”
Melmoth sighed and managed to look older, if that were possible. “There are some who say knowledge is power. They are wrong. For forty years I have come to this library every day and read its contents. In the first days, there was but one row of documents, now hundreds line these walls, but only a small number exist from before Limbo and the end of the world. I know more than you, yet you will be the one empowered to make change.”
I pushed away the book I’d been reading, an account of a wizard named Torquemada on his first expedition through the portal. “My grandfather was a child before the tumult,” I said. “He only spoke of his memories to help us sleep.”
Melmoth smiled. “Of golden fields and sunsets no doubt? Indeed, the days before had those, but it also had war, disease, famine and death in abundance. The harsh land of Limbo has taught us the wasteful way in which we once lived. No-one wastes their lives here in strife with their peers. There is too little left to fight over and too little left to fight with.”
“Do you remember it then?” I prodded gently. “Did you live in those times?”
“Does it matter?” Melmoth sniffed. “Dreams of the past are of use only when they may shape the present. Wizards come and go from this place, learning the ways of the elders until they are ready for the door. What knowledge they take with them to the other side determines their actions. Some return having found new worlds and seek to liberate their families and friends. Others do not return at all. Perhaps they are dead? Perhaps they do not care. What you learn in this library shapes you. You may wish to bring back a land you know only from story and song, but it will never truly be that place, it will be of itself,” he gestured at the shelves. “What you read here will mean more in that moment, when you need to make a choice.”
I thought about his words for a long time after that.
by Allen Stroud