The Librarian reads the fading text, his magic revivifying the moldy pages:
I have, in times since now, lost track of weeks, months, years, knowing cycles only. The sun to rise and set, the air to grow warm or cold. Such are the ups and downs, like gears turning in a terrible machine, driving forward into the blackness. But I also see the ravages of decay, they have no ebb or flow, nor receding from what they take do they leave for a period to let the land renew itself. Always this dark devours.
Every sunset is red with the smoke of the destruction they wrought, every morning fills the air with fine ash. Who knew a dying world would hold such color? The sunbeams play with the shadows, painting in vivid angles strange shapes somehow alien to the barren branches they race through. But the great shadow now falls, the incoming tide turned into a wave, flooding eternally the land. But this is a sinking continent under whose every square inch lies unmourned graves.
I have resigned myself to this fate, that the swelling river should one day sweep me aside as it has swept all before me, yet how strange it is that on the day my dreams, a hope not even whispered say it were my heart whispering to my breasts, it is strange that my dreams should come true only to lead me into the coursing waters some years earlier than my hopeless path should.
For picking berries I saw him, the one forever in my dreams. His face has always been behind that shining steel, my night visions a knight dressed for war. So, for once he came in the day, my eyes opened—I trust not my eyes, but then he was real. Sticky with sweat, battered by battle, things a fantasy knows nothing of, and so if my eyes have failed then the whole of me they have inducted into their mirage. What should I count reality if not a perfect mirage? I have seen stranger things.
Near death, I found him in a glade, that armor so heavy. To save him I removed it; I sacrificed the trappings of his knighthood to effect speed. But the speed was not enough, and now our enemies enclosing will find him whom I’ve made defenseless, and me, who in effort to rescue my dream, has been caught.
And so it is that I, Amelia, will die, finally seeing the face of the one whose company has always been obscured by cold hard steel, my fantasy knight guarding my sleep made real. But what can soft flesh do to ward off death?
Hector slumps against his little reading desk, shivers running up and down his arms. Panting, he turns his head towards the old man. The librarian wants to speak, to tell Graybeard—that’s what Hector calls him—what danger Johnny is in. But opening and closing his lips vainly brings forth no sounds.
The old man lays a hand on his back, whispering, “I see, I see the trouble.” Taking out a quill, he begins to write fresh words into that dying world.
Clenching her jaw tightly, she screams, “Wake up!”
His head jerks, and Amelia jumps backward, as if seeing a dead man stir. Streams of light race through the grass from all directions, serpentining upon one center, her knight. Converging upon his still body, they race toward his mouth. Unmistakably, she hears the sound of a long intake of breath, the old man inspiring him.
Jumping from the ground, and clutching his broken arm, he shouts, “Run.”
Together they flee toward the little cabin against the hill. Running ahead of her, he stops and turns. Once she catches up with him, he trots after her, keeping to Amelia’s exhausted pace. Reaching the door, she jogs on, circling the little abode.
“This way,” Amelia calls.
The forest is filled with the sounds of popping corks, the shadows forming in the night. Behind the cabin, two rusted iron slabs stand up in the air, opened to a staircase leading down into the darkness. Amelia waves Johnny on, and he descends, disappearing into the cellar. With her feet upon the first crude earthen step, she begins pulling at a rope. The great hinges sing, as the iron doors fall, sealing the two under their massive weight.
As the loud metallic clang echoes into the hollow, Amelia descends, apologizing, “I’m sorry, give me a moment to find the light.” There is no response. Sensing she’s come to the last step, she adds, “What’s your name?”
She hears a voice whisper, “I don’t know.”