No one knew how old The Librarian was. Not even The Librarian itself.
Thousands of cycles have passed within it’s memory. It has witnessed the rise and fall of entire civilisations on Myca. It’s long, nearly immortal life aided by ancient nanotechnology embedded in her wizened flesh left over from the Cataclysm. It was one of the last remaining Exemplars of the scholars, the very oldest and most powerful of the Mycanoids in existence.
As the auditorium grew darker, Luteous became aware that his feet began to feel like pins and needles were poking at the soles. Looking down in the growing gloom, he swore he could see the brownish red surface of the mycelium vibrating where his feet hovered just inches above, as if the ancient rhizome was reaching up to reconnect him. Alarmed, he jerked them up and away with a small squeak. He began to feel like something was wrong… that something was happening he didn’t understand.
Suddenly, with an audible “thup”, his head filled with an uneasy pressure. Not a physical pressure like when he got a really bad cold, but a pressure of thought. Hundreds of voices in his head were no longer separate from his own. He could “hear” them as if they were music through a thin wall, present, but unintelligible.
His pulse began to race and panic set in.
Fighting a tidal wave of fear, Luteous wildly cast his eyes around and saw other sporelings squirming in their seats. He could see the same panic he felt on their faces. Some clapped their hands over their ears as if being assaulted by some unbearable noise. Others were crying. Something was happening to them all at the same time and a rising murmur of alarm filled the auditorium as more and more voices joined in the confusion.
Leteous became aware that the voices he heard with his ears were one with the voices that now intruded into his mind. They were all joining the same consciousness somehow.
This only served to confuse and scare the poor sporeling even more.
His feet became heavier, as if magnets were drawing them down to the packed mycelium of the floor. In horror, he saw that thin, reddish brown tendrils were growing directly under his feet, seeking blindly like questing tentacles in the air just inches below his light brown pads.
Just as Luteous was opening his mouth to scream, a voice rang out through the growing cacophony of panic.
“Oh, do calm down, sporelings.” the voice said with a casual and amused tone.
Those words, along with their timbre and wise quality had an immediate effect on the entire room. Panic and fear were momentarily forgotten. All eyes now turned to the stage.
The figure which now occupied the platform needed no footlights to be seen. It was larger than any being the sporelings in the auditorium had seen in their lives. It was an Armillaria, but unlike any they had learned from their teachings so far.
Tall and slender, its light, tan colored body was wrapped in ornate blue robes with intricate, swirling designs threaded with gold. Its cap was covered in centuries of warts, clustering its surface with black nodules, some as large as Luteous’s fist.
What transfixed the young audience was the circuitry of gold, luminous pathways etched over its body and across it’s cap that matched the gold threading on its robe. It was if its skin was inlaid with thin, glowing pathways that pulsed gently in different areas. They swooped and arched up over The Librarian’s cap and came swirling together to form an intricate, circular design at the crown.
Surveying the auditorium, The Librarian raised his arms and spoke. “Please, relax sporelings. There is no danger here.”
One by one, as the calming effect of the ancient Librarian’s voice took hold, the sporelings relaxed, letting their feet touch the floor. As they made contact with the seeking tendrils of the living mycelium, their bodies went ridgid, and their eyes became luminous, unblinking gold spheres in their head.
Despite the calming reassurance of The Librarian, Luteous wasn’t having any of it. The cacophony of voices in his head quickly graduated to a “hum” that he could feel as much as sense. A sense of panic over the spell of calm cast by the old being broke and he scrambled up to sit on the back of his seat, away from the seeking tendrils that waived in the air just below where his butt once was.
A stifled noise behind him made him turn, and see the sporelings behind him go rigid like the others as the web of the ancient birthing grounds connected with their feet. Their eyes wide and unseeing, taking on a gold glow. Letting out a cry of dismay he fell forward, away from those empty, glowing eyes and caught himself on the seat in front of him.
Below him, in the gap between the seats, dark red tendrils reached up as if sensing his nearing presence. Luteous began to cry, more scared than he’d ever been in his life. He felt helpless, unable to go anywhere to escape this horrifying scene. Twisting his body to arch as high as he could away from the floor, he sucked in a tremendous breath to scream.
Suddenly, large hands, hands that encircled his entire body and traced with glowing gold circuitry, gently lifted him high above the floor. Confused and helpless, Luteous was spun around and cradled in massive arms.
The face of The Librarian looked down at him. The young sporeling sensed the gentle nature of the Exemplar, hypnotized by the pulsing, gold lines that criss crossed the wizened face. Kind, faintly luminous eyes regarded him silently for a moment before a finger stroked his cap in a soothing manner.
“Little one… who are you to resist my knowledge?” its voice spoke. Not unkind, but also not friendly.
“I… I don’t want... to…” Luteous began but suddenly felt foolish and shut up. Too in awe of this overwhelming presence taking a specific interest in him.
“It is rare for one so young to be so strong. You will do great things for our people, Luteous. Now sleep, and gain knowledge,” it said, still stroking his cap.
Luteous thought for a wild moment that sleeping was the LAST thing he wanted. But the buzz of voices in his head began to take on a soothing quality. Relaxing and droning.
“It IS kind of comfortable,” he thought, allowing himself to sink into the firm and sturdy arm that cradled him.
His body relaxed in spite of the situation, his eye lids grew heavy. Luteous barely felt The Librarian bending over to place him on the ground. When the first tendril grazed his flesh, he had a moment of regret, but no more.
The next thing he knew, he was floating space. Images and words became known to him, and the story of his people’s origins began to play out across the backdrop of stars, narrated by The Librarian.