Something bad is about to happen.
The thought entered his brain like it had been dropped from a very great height, and made something of a splash.
Something bad is about to happen soon, was the helpful ‘reply’ from some subconscious sub-brain-system. Instead of wondering about that, he decided to gaze kinda vaguely in the direction of who was talking (it was Red, this time) and daydreaming.
“So, once we blah blah blah blah blah blah,” said Red boringly. “Blah blah blah?”
Red stopped talking and looked in Aidra’s direction expectantly. Oh, that might be some kinda Question.
He took a stab in the dark. “Reptilians.”
“What? Are you listening? I mean, seriously blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.”
But he was busy thinking about other things. Red, Red, Reeeed. A riddle wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in a…
Aidra couldn’t even think that with a straight face. The idiot thought that some haematic magic could keep his thoughts from him, but he was probably more mistaken than he’d ever been before. Beneath that fez lurked secrets that gods would kill to know.
The Man with the Red Right Hand was very clever. Could he hide his plans forever? An interesting question that Aidra didn’t know the answer to. Actually, he wasn’t sure Red knew, either. Nonlinear in time, nonlinear in space, the guy was pretty strange, by the standards of the… three whole humans he’d met. Now, he knew things about Red, and Red kinda had an inkling that he knew things, so Red put up the whole psychic barrier dealio. It helped, but not much, like wrapping his thoughts in tissue paper. The vague outline was still visible, despite all the muffling.
Ooh, tissue! That reminded him! He wasn’t sure of what, exactly, but it probably wasn’t very important. Or, if it was important, maybe it wasn’t important yet. Tricky stuff, prophecy; the branched and fractured outcomes, the trees of the world stretching up five-dimensionally into a sky of futures. This was, of course, exactly why the World Tree – Yggdrasil – was very rarely truly visible in a world; it stretched up into possibility, perpendicular to the three-dimensional perspective and thus out of sight. So many one-eyed wisdom gods hung themselves from that particular tree, gaining knowledge of the future – looking up into the branches – and into the past from staring down, into the roots. Deep below, Níðhöggolier chewed eternally at the past, a great and terrible serpentine creature with thousands of jaws, eating away at history, while far above an entropic eagle circled. In this metaphor, upon the trunk of this great tree, mortal and temporary creatures clambered, Ratatoskr – curious as a squirrel. Of course, the metaphor slightly broke down, given the very real and actual Great Trees that spanned the Levels of the Library in more ways than the obvious, stretching cross strange dimensions and weftwards through dark realities.
Wait, what was he thinking of again? Oh, right, prophecy! The best way to Do A Prophecy is to daydream long enough to make the future happen now, in that it stops being a future-future and becomes a now-future.
He was jolted from his reverie and secondary daydreaming by Red grabbing his shoulder.
“Hey, idiot, you’re going to run into someone if you don’t watch where you’re going!”
“I planned for that to happen! Probably?”
“Yeah, right,” he replied. “Now, let’s see if we can find the others – I think A Librarian went that way, and Nik’s probably with him, so-”
Something screeched with a terrifying mixture of darkness and horror.
“What in the hells?”
“Oh,” Aidra replied happily, “you can hear that, too!”
He looked around, frantically. “Well, can’t you just… work out what that is? You’re psychic, you should be able to!”
“Welllll…” he began, but stopped.
That would be a bad idea, said the voice in his head that wasn’t really a voice, more a collection of strange thoughts and impressions.
He mulled it over a bit, then let words fall out of his mouth in an order that meant things. “If I knew enough of it, it would start to know of me. Sometimes looking out means something else is looking in.”
“Oh.” Red looked worried, then around as the flow of people around them started to move, shifting, as if everyone was starting to move away from something neither of them could see.
A different scream, one of a starving, angry creature.
The varied peoples currently filing out of the market chamber sped up slightly in response, and while it was getting clearer, Aidra still couldn’t see anything amiss. Gingerly, he reached out with the bits of his brain that weren’t in his head, feelering around with his extrasensorium.
Instantly, he felt it. A poisonous, corrosive presence, drawing the aetherial currents towards it like a bathtub drain. Poorly-contained darkness and hunger, with… a smidge of brightness and chaos clinging to it? Wait, that was new. The dark and endless hatred that curled behind Alice’s eyes didn’t normally have something stuck in its ‘jaws’ – it had been senescent for as long as he’d been sensing it.
He turned to Red, who was standing very still, the fingers of his right hand twitching unconsciously as he stared into space. In his mind’s eye, Aidra could see little flickers of light moving around within the red crystal. A mind, trapped as if in amber, wriggling where Red kept his thoughts. Weird place to keep them, but who was he to judge?
He distracted himself from this distraction by poking Red in the shoulder until he stopped staring into space and slapped his hand away.
“You were daydreaming. That’s my shtick.”
He rolled his eyes. “I don’t care.”
“Also Alice has been kinda-sorta possessed by a Bookwyrm.”
“I know, right? The poor unsuspecting Bookwyrm.”
Aidra pretended as hard as he could that he couldn’t hear what Red was thinking. Mostly because most of it wasn’t fit for printing. Wait, printing? This narrative-expositionary style of mushy thought he was experiencing! It was his point-of-view chapter, and to think he’d only been able to work that out seconds before it en-