Lost for Words
Story by Wolvun
Much of Misery Manor is in struggle. The hunter and the hunted and the hunting. Predator and prey and passive observer.. Strong and the weak and the hiding sleek. Intermingling, allying, betraying and beating each other whenever possible. Every creature simply trying to avoid suffering. Every creature feeding the Harvest Coven’s endless hunger for Misery.
While every being in the mansion has their need for the Misery, that does not mean all is equal. Some are safe, self sufficient, like the monstrous Chef in his diabolic kitchen. Others have no desire or need for enemies, like the blood-drinking Vandor in the cellars, simply happy to be left alone with his stock. The desperate horde of pumpkinks bleed from all directions desperate for even a taste or morsel of Misery, taking any bite they can, be it existential or a physical chunk of flesh. The Nurses, working tirelessly in the name of the Good Doctor, “healing” in a way that no one ever wants to be healed.
Yet amid these complicated territories within the ever shifting walls, there are those who have no need to get along with the hunters or hunted that may enter their territory.
Pipin was none of these forces of nature that ruled the Manor. She was simply someone who had escaped her own suffering, a hunted, prey for anything else that may find her. Her only goal was to end her own misery, to escape somewhere, to find somewhere safer than everywhere she had been here. To hide from the eyes of her predator.
She thumped though the hallway. The patchwork of wires and glass she called glasses pinched onto her nose as she ran. Bare feet clutching to the short carpeting. Whatever she could do to pick up just a bit more traction. Whatever could get her away from the large red demoness chasing her.
Beastial. As humanoid as they may appear, these creatures are driven by their ID. Whatever intelligence they showed was though the instruction of the orange-scarfed witches. Often with glyphs, symbols and gestures. Never spoken word. The giant creature reaches nearly seven feet and weighing as much as cows, they can seem to reach a top speed of- no no no!
Pipin shook her head. She had to focus! No time to analyse the creature, it was in hot pursuit! It was only lucky that her bindings had been loose. That the fall had only left a stabbing pain and bruise, not broken legs like some of the others that had let go. She had to find some place safe. Someplace she could recover.
With no direction, she was running on instincts. The stabbing pain only worse as she ran. Taking corner after corner. Pushing though rooms to put whatever she could between her and the demoness. Until she slammed into something. Sprawling backward. Her head spinning. Feeling one of the precious lenses had shattered from the impact against the double doors.
Rubbing her eyes, Pipin tried to understand what happened. These doors, they didn’t look like the other doors here. Though this whole place made so little sense that the unknown wasn’t so frightening. A heavily worn plaque sat next to the door handles
-Silence is safe-
The sound of something thrown down the hall draws Pipin back to her reality. She was still being chased. Her leg screaming now, she needed a place she could hide. Hopefully, this place would be overlooked. Opening the door and slipping inside quietly. Turning around the face to unknown.
The room inside sat eerie still. Lacking even simple lighting that the hallways had. It felt like it was lost to time. Blue candle light illuminating the room. Tables and shelves thick with dust. Piles of books, tomes and even scrolls sat just as covered in dust. Pipin felt like she should be breathing in this silence. Yet she was drawn forward. Walking forward and kicking up dust as she approaches a table. Picking up a random book and opening it. Her natural curiosity pushing her to thumb though the pieces. Moving from table to table. Inspecting the books but unable to sit down. Not with all the options. It felt…warm. Familiar. Like before all of this. Pipin rubs her cheek…tears? Those were common in this place but to remember back then. To feel safe.
Right up until the doors burst in.
Both of the double doors came flying inside. Cleaving though tables and into shelves like saw blades. Behind them stalks the giant crimson predator. A wicked grin across its face as it looks about. Visibly drooling at the prospect of the torture it will inflict when it captures Pipin.
It didn’t see Pipin right away for as soon as the dust was kicked up, she had taken off into the rows of shelves. Trying to keep herself silent. Clutching her mouth and side. Swallowing down the pain in her leg in order to find a hiding spot. Hearing shelves overturned and tossed aside. The rapid slaps of reading material tossed and scattered before the monster. Intent on overturning the whole room to get at Pipin. Whether it would even drag her back or make her regret not having broken her leg from the fall ran though Pipin’s head. This place though. She…she shouldn’t have stopped here. Or at least, she should have not stayed. She didn’t know why she stayed, she felt so safe and at home that she kept forgetting she needed to leave, to run.
And now she’s here, hiding, safe, and in mortal danger.
Yet by the trail of disturbed dust and enough shelves tossed aside, the predator tracked down its prey. Hunched over on all four as it stalked forward. Wicked grin exposing broken teeth. Bearing down upon the poor slave before her. Pipin felt warmth between her leg as she fell to her knees. Flanked on both sides. Waiting for her inevitably end to come.
Only one person will witness her demise. One of many lost to the creatures. Standing stiffly, leaning against a cane. Face curled into a sneer.
The Guardian creeps forward, hunch forward. Ready to pounce forward onto the slave to do what it pleases with. A content snarl shifting to a shriek as it kicks it leg. Sending a…book flying away?
Pipin stares in confusion. The creature’s leg wasn’t right. Pipin could see a bizarre cross section. The bone, muscles and tendons all flexing as they move yet not a drop of blood spilling out. The Guardian did not know or care. It’s focus returning to the cowering Pipin.
It’s attention too focused though, oblivious to the shelves shaking and the books appearing atop them.
Some animated books sporting long origami-like spindly spider legs coming from between the covers. Another with a long red ribbon akin to a book mark, thick enough to be a serpents tail. The soft flap drawing attention to several books on shelves, flapping as though they had wings.
As the giant roars and leaps, the books make their move. The flyers dropping like lead weights onto the red demoness. Clamping down and causing the monster to fall short of its victim. Shrieking and roaring as Pipin scrambles away. The beast clawing and tearing at the books, even as more drop and latch onto them. Pipin saw a feeding frenzy, akin to piranhas starving, feeding at last. Only a red demoness instead of a cow. No viscera. No blood. No contest.
Pipin doesn’t utter a word. Only witnessing in shock the horrifically clean carnage before her. As the bloodlessly red creature struggles and roars as more and more of her vanishes. Her snarling roars of confusion gone deafeningly mute as the parts needed to produce the needed sounds disappear. Only the click of her snapping jaws could be heard as a large tome with those spidery legs closes around it. Returning the library to silence once more.
Pipin squeaks as the cane tip sharply stabs next to her. The woman holding it walking past to pick up the large tome with a single hand. Opening and inspecting its contents.
“Demoness of the 3rd realm. Guardian.” Snapping the tome shut with an sharp boom. “Typical…common…..But you.”
The woman turns around. Looking down her nose upon Pipin. The black clothing covering her body fully, the only colour a blue shawl draped over her shoulders and chest. Hair done back into a tight bun. Every bit of her spoke of control. Of herself and her place.
Kneeling over, sneer unmoving. “You are…different…” At this word, the books stir.
Edging forward as a starved mutt might do with the chance of food. “Different…and useful…”
The sneer twists and consorts. Becoming a slight smile, however uncanny it might be for her to make such an expression after so long in her solitude “You seek it as well, don’t you?”
Pipin doesn’t reply. Only staring on as the sneer returns.
“No harm shall come to you. I give permission to speak. So speak.”
“I want to answer you, but I…I don’t understand”
“Exactly!” The woman’s reply a sharp as a worn whip “Understanding is what is important. It is what we both need.”
She glances over her shoulders, the books shrinking back. Legs pulled back in. Serpentine bookmarks limp. “I have need of an apprentice.”
The woman stands up. “Ah, questions. Good. All you need to know right now, is that I am a Witch of Words.”
“So you know-“
“I already know. I know of the witch who torments you.” the Witch of Words nodded “In this Library, no harm will come to you from outside. They have no power here. For you see, in the Library, knowledge is power, and I have the knowledge of the entire library!”
Pipin eyed around her, seeing that the library descended into the darkness and beyond, it seeming to twist and contort physics like the rest of the Manor. She couldn’t even guess how big this Library might be, and the Witch of Words is in control of everything here?
“So what do you say, young Pipin? I can see you have a thirst to knowledge as I, but unlike me, you aren’t trapped within these library walls. I can provide you shelter, if you can provide me your assistance, bringing new knowledge to me from outside, with some of my help of course.” The Witch grinned a cracked smile again, it seemed innocent enough. For now.
“Would you like to to become my Library Apprentice?”
Pipin couldn’t shake the feeling that there was a catch. But also, what was her alternative? Return to the shackles of the witches who wanted her Misery?
No, she was trapped in Misery Manor already. In a place of constant struggle and the hunters and the hunted, she preferred to be a gatherer of knowledge. Safe in the Blue Library.