To my replacement,
If you have opened the Postern and found your way into these halls, then I am dead–likely by your hand. I bear you no animosity. (To the victor go the spoils.) I place my faith in the Archive that my chapter ended when it needed to, and that it has chosen wisely in you as the new Chronologue.
Look at the countless rows of books around you. Breathe in the musk of flaking pages and dried ink, the ancient earthen smell of the endless wooden shelves. No tree grows this kind of wood anymore. There are a great many things in the Archive that the world has lost or forgotten–and not all of them are bound in books.
If you ever regret coming here, remember how many chances you had to turn back. Your hindbrain warned you that I was a being that should not be looked upon, approached, or even remembered. Still, you chose to investigate when the powers of the Chronologue dissuade most from noticing me at all. Then you chose to strike, though every instinct told you to walk away. Finally you took the key of bone. (My bone.) You read the map of skin. (My skin.) And you followed them to the Postern, a door which many have looked at, but few have seen.
It is no accident that you are here. The Archive belongs to you now, just as much as you belong to the Archive. You did not ask for this, but it is yours just the same–this sacred place where all stories must go. You have killed for it already. You will kill for it again, whether to protect its secrets or to gather new ones.
And when the time comes, you will die for it.
Your duties begin immediately.
First, you must write a full and complete account of my death. Spare no detail, however unseemly. The Archive has no care for pride–only for truth.
Second, you must craft a new key of bone. Sever your ring finger at the base. (No hesitation; the Chronologue forsakes all signets and seals.) Strip the flesh and carve a new key. When held by the Chronologue, the key opens every door, and every door leads to the Archive.
Last, you must peel the skin off your back. (No weakness; the Chronologue lives in the page, not the flesh.) On this, you will draw a new map of skin. Somewhere, a very long time ago, you passed through a door and for a moment smelled old vellum and leather and gazed into a library of endless wooden shelves and countless windows looking on countless worlds. Perhaps you repressed the memory. (Most do.) Perhaps you thought it was a dream. (It wasn’t.) You must remember the location of that door and draw a map so that when you die, the next Chronologue can bring the key and re-open the Archive as you have done.
I have left you a draught of dulling herb along with some surgical tools I have kept ready for the last 30 years.
Take my advice and sever the finger before you strip it. (A mercy; my predecessor did not tell me I had this choice.) Keep a steady hand. My apologies for the stains on your new desk. You will learn quickly that in this place, few of the great stories are written in ink.
The Forty-Fifth Chronologue of the Archive,
Who was Taras Grant of Axia Prime
(Who is gratefully relieved of service)
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This week’s Archive story comes from Peter Chiykowski, co-writer of the forthcoming EMBERWIND: The Songweave Tapestry campaign. He’s the creator of the webcomics Rock Paper Cynic, Is It Canon?, and What’s George Doing Today?, the viral Twitter sensation Dad Joke Han Solo, and the postcard fiction project The Shortest Story.
Art by CRUSHVisual Studios.