Interval II: Investigative Journalism

The Spy-der is a mechanical arachnoid that wanders some of the lower halls of the Library, searching for prey that looks sufficiently interesting. I believe it related to the CCTVentipede and Eye-Fly, if only by analogenetics. The iSpider is a subspecies, distinguished by its smooth carapace, smaller size and its greater diversity of colouration.

He sighed as his quill broke, splattering ink over the latest page of his journal. “Thrice-cursed cheap feathers.”

With the touch of his will, the spilt ink peeled from the paper, spiralling through the air and back into the bottle. He picked up the lid, checked to see that there weren’t any inchwyrms* measuring its internal diameter, and gently screwed it back on, stowing the bottle and standing up. The bone-pale patterned leaves of Ygg’s Horse stretched away on either side, blending at the horizon with the great cloudy glyphs that spanned the roofless skies of the highest Library.

He had just pulled out a stick of charcoal, preparing to sketch one of the more interesting looking Sky Writings, maybe get some of the landscape of the Higher Library in at the bottom, when he froze.

Something was watching him. Instincts honed by decades of escaping monsters sent chills running down his spine. With an almost imperceptible noise, the air thickened, holding a vast amount of energy that tingled along his scalp and was bursting to be freed.

There was a soft whoosh behind him as the interloper arrived, a sudden displacement of air and the quiet release of built up energy, dispersing the tension in the air.

“I wondered about f-”

Before the utterance could finish, he had catapulted himself forwards in a roll across the canopy, coming back to his feet and whirling round to face the voice – perched with his feet spread wide between two branches barely wider than pencils.

“As I was saying, I wondered about fi-”

What do you want?

Eobael wasn’t in the habit of looking annoyed, but she gave it her best go. “I was explaining the purpose of my visit. I apologise for startling you.”

He clutched his journal to his chest, making furtive glances left and right, as if having an egress mattered. But he didn’t run away.

“Events,” Eobael said, “Are transpiring that may make it expedient for you to settle a couple of debts.”

“What. Do. You. Want.”

“I thought we had proceeded beyond the ‘fear not’ part of our working relationship. I am hurt. Except I am not, because that is a mere transient falsehood for the purposes of humour.”

He redoubled his scowl to stop the corner of his mouth twitching in amusement. “Eobael. Stop evading.”

“The White and the Grey are on the move.” Eobael’s voice was quiet, and the twelve wings that covered and framed her unseen form rippled, as if she was shifting uncomfortably. “They will call in your debt to them, and I will be unable to prevent this.”

He winced. “My responsibilities.”

A melodic chuckle. “The only thing you can’t run from?” The eyes upon her wings twinkled in amusement, but were still looking at him with some degree of sadness.

“Hah. I can run from anything.” He stood straighter, and there was something glittering behind his crimson eyes. “But…”

“Your friends cannot,” Eobael supplied. “But you refuse to turn to them, fearful for their lives.”

“This is my problem, not theirs.”

“So you would walk into the embrace of the White and the Grey? Alone?”

“I’ll have you, I suppose, oh parole officer mine.”

“I am incapable of guarding you from your own choices, no matter how misguided.”

He narrowed his eyes. “Isn’t that what you’re doing now? Trying to get me to talk to my friends? Affecting my choices? Wheedling me into making a decision you think will be better for me?”

Eobael closed her eyes, and when they opened, they were incandescent with Cherenkov radiation. “Nameless Walker. It is within my ability and freedom to guide, and that is what I came here to do. You are not capable of preventing me.” The blue lights in her eyes dimmed. “And I am concerned for your safety.”

He squirmed, averting her gaze. “Look, you’re my friend, and… okay, I’ll get the help of you, at least. I don’t want to impose on anyone more than I already have – they’ve got better things to do and more to lose than I do. I don’t have a family, an occupation, or anything else.”

“Family aren’t limited by mere blood relation, which I will admit you don’t have. I am certain that if you were to ask any of the people you travelled with, adventuring across the known and unknown Realms, for a warm place to stay they would be all too happy to keep you from sleeping in the rough.”

“They’d… they’d get hurt. And it’d be my fault.”

“Your friends can take care of themselves. You will be noble and dead for trying to keep them out of this.”

He opened his mouth, reconsidered, looked pensive for a moment, opened his mouth again, re-reconsidered and finally harrumphed, looking pointedly in a direction that wasn’t at Eobael.

“You’re being childish,” she said, a note of humour in her lyrical voice.

He let out an exaggerated sigh. “Fine. I’ll talk to my friends. You better get me some good intelligence on what White and Grey are up to, though.”

It was difficult to tell, with no visible mouth, but Eobael was smiling. “I will try my best. For the time being, I know that they are following someone, who has at least a portion of what they need.”

She gave him a brief nod and dispersed into a cloud of feathers and mist, peeling off the surface of reality and diving into the Outer Void.

He was left alone on the peak of Ygg’s Horse, looking around across the glittering canopy at the eternal words that crossed the sky – grey against the empty black of a television tuned to a dead channel.

 


*  Inchwyrms are the smaller cousins of Tape Wyrms. These are both kinds of Measurement Dragon, or Lung (pronounced “long”).

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