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Sep 27, 2022 8:30 PM
an explorer enters a library mimic
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The Library of Certu stands in the northwestern tip of the Sallow, near its intersection with the Fringe, the Grey, and the Green. Its remoteness means that they only get about one visitor a day on average. The library is hidden among the fungal forests, but its observatory spire juts out from the mushroom tops, decidedly distinct with its non-pink color and appearance of carved stone and wrought iron. A person from an entirely different world would call the architecture Victorian.

The door to the library has a sign beside it.

Welcome to the Library of Certu
Admission is Free and Open to All
To Enter, knock on the Door and Wait to be Examined
Reading Lessons offered for Free at this location.

There's some sort of hole beside it that speaks the same five sentences at regular intervals.

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"Well, that's gotta be the libraraiieeeeeee!"

SPLAT, goes the slimegirl as she crashes into the ground again!

"Realistically, I should probably do any actual research on aerodynamics rather than winging it off of - oh mmfhhmmhhfmmm, mmm, busy thinking right now, sorry buddy, you can have fun in a minute or two if I'm still here - half-remembered textbooks and instinct, huh?"

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"That does seem advisable.  Now, be a good girl, open your mind, focus upon making that portal to the entrance you're thinking of right now for me, won't you?  There you go, just like that, you're doing very well...mmm, a little to the left, good girl.  You're doing so well, darling."

Somehow, this works better than either of them trying to do magic by themselves.

Not that they can't, but it's still better for them.  Partially because it's hot, but mostly because it's efficient.

Long portals to places they can't currently see require quite a lot of power and finesse.  Myria's tapped for one, while Ophelia provides the other - though, really, it's less clear-cut than that metaphor strictly implies.

Still, the portal opens, and...

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The gaggle of Myrias run to the library, pressing themselves up against the stone like it's a lover's caress!  "Non-fleshy structures!  Oh how I've missed you!  ...are you a mimic?  You're legally obligated to tell me if you're a mimic, or it's entrapment.  Which is not how any of that body of law actually works in the first place, let alone that we're so extraterritorial to the nation it's from that it's not even funny, but frankly, I'm cracking silly jokes left and right in case someone actually recognizes them, more than for their intrinsic humor value.  ...I should make a portal gun!"

And then she knocks.  "Hello!  I heard you're a functioning library!  I come bearing as many books as you can get out of my head, and I've read a lot of books!  Also so, so much fanfiction, I know some libraries store games and some had started doing makerspacey stuff last I...oh.  Oh no.  ...Breakdown later, books now.  And going inside?"

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The door opens, and a woman wearing light brown robes stands at the door. She lets them in to a sort of antechamber or coatroom. She's seen some weird things in her more than three hundred years of life, but this is definitely up there. She lets the...strangely connected yet also discrete slimegirls enter into the room. Her face does not belie her surprise, though. Her next speech is clearly rehearsed.

"Welcome to the Library of Certu. I am Beatrix Castell, the head librarian. I believe you've seen the sign outside. Do you bear any weapons? Weapons are not allowed in the library, and have to be stowed here in the antechamber until you leave."

She gestures to a large cabinet with racks, with a glass front. There's a strange shimmer in the glass that hints at it being enchanted with protective magic.

"Alternatively, we can keep weapons in the library's armory. In the case your weapons are a part of your body, or are otherwise undetachable, we require that they be retracted, deactivated, or otherwise nullified in some way. Thank you for your cooperation. After you have stowed away your weapons, or if you don't have any, we will examine you as a final precaution."

She pauses for a second.

"Er, one last thing. We require slimepeople to wear boots and gloves in the library. I know that many slimepeople do not actually leave slime trails, but a few have done so in the library's history, and it's very inconvenient for us. I hope you do not mind." She smiles slightly.

She opens a drawer and reveals ten pairs of gloves and ten pairs of rain boots made of thin black semi-rubbery material. 

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She smiles widely. "Yes, the Library of Certu is a mimic. At the very least, he used to be one. I heard earlier that you had books to trade? That's great! We're always looking to expand our collection. The Library does not really deal with gems or regular currency. Instead, we trade in services, books, information, favors, and items. Was there a specific reason why you came here? We don't get many visitors, since the Library is so remote."

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The antechamber floor is tiled in granite, and the cabinets and doors are made of dark varnished wood. It looks like a cozy library you might find in a large wealthy city.

At least, it looks that way. 

The same sign is posted inside the antechamber, although it does not have the repeating speaker this time. The narrow room has the main entrance on one end, and the entrance to the library proper on the other. Opposite the large glass windowed cabinet for weapons, the whole other wall is covered with various wooden cabinets and drawers with metal handles.

The whole place is flawless – one would not know this to be mimic-made unless one had truesight.

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"It was the closest library to where I first was aware of existing in this world as opposed to any others I may or may not have previously existed in!  Don't have any weapons, besides my brain, that I'm aware of having, at least!  And, Ophelia, if you wouldn't mind..."

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There are now boots and gloves on the slime girls?

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"Sorry, but I don't really...Something would be wrong, wearing those instead of these, y'know?  Not anywhere near as comfy..."

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"Oh, I did not realize you had living clothing! Yes, that would work just as well. Please take note of these library rules while we examine you."

She points to another sign with more detailed rules. She's quite sure the visitors can read, but she always just reads out the sign regardless. While she's doing that, a dozen eyestalks snake out of a hole that suddenly appeared in the wall, and are now looking Myria and Ophelia up and down. They don't touch them, however.

Rules of the Library of Certu

1.) No fighting is permitted in the library. No weapons are permitted in the library. Do not steal things from other patrons of the library. Penalty: Expulsion for the aggressor.

2.) Do not make noise or talk loudly in the study or library sections. Penalty: Timeout.

3.) Do not enter sections of the library marked "No Entry" without authorization. Penalty: Timeout, or Expulsion.

4.) Do not damage the books or the library infrastructure. Penalty: Expulsion, or fine consisting of services or items roughly equal to the value of destroyed items.

5.) If permitted to loan books, return books on time. Penalty for tardiness: Fine consisting of services or items proportional to lateness and value of books.

6.) Eating and drinking anything other than plain water is only permitted in the Lobby, Entertainment and Meeting Rooms, and the Bedrooms. Penalty: Confiscation of items.

7.) Only use the Emergency Call button if there is an emergency. Penalty: Timeout, or Expulsion.

"Do you affirm that you will follow these rules for so long as you are at the library? I should clarify that by 'Timeout', I mean that you'll be made to spend time in Certu's tentacle pit for a while until you calm down. If you need more clarification on what the rules mean, please ask me. It seems as though you've been to a library before, but many visitors we have have not. Also, are you literate? If not, we offer free reading and writing lessons for one language of your choice." She also points to a map of the library and a description of the rooms.

The eyestalks retract and look at Beatrix for a moment. She nods.

"The examination has concluded. Welcome to the Library of Certu." She opens the door for them.

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medium sized victorian library atrium

The door opens into an atrium with bookshelves. There doesn't seem to be anyone in the library aside from them. The left has a sign reading "Entertainment Room", the right has "Study Room" and "General Section A". The general theme of dark varnished wood and delicate wrought ironwork continues. Magical lights with switches supplement the pinkish light streaming in from the windows. There are stairs leading to the mezzanines and upper levels, as well as a staircase in a quieter corner leading to the basement.

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"If you need help, there are buttons where you can call for me beside the light switches. It might take a while for me to get to you, though, so be patient. There will also be a larger covered button next to it, but that is for emergency purposes only. Do not misuse it."

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eeeeeeeeee books and knowledge this is a library!

"I have been to libraries before yes mmhmm, though not exactly in this form and certainly not any exactly like this!  ...say, how are you handling - oh I have so many questions about so many things - oh and of course I'll follow the rules honestly allowing even water near the books spooks me even with the potential for protective magic, do you have anything like that, actually, if not I think that once I've sorted out all the enchanting knowledge that got dumped into my brain somehow - there's so much of it and I don't know why it's all so disorganized when I have a brain computer - that I'd like to help make some for you two, it seems the right sort of thing to do i-m-o - excuse me, in my opinion; -- mmphll!?"

Once Myria has recovered from the surprise gag, she's much less a runaway filterless train of thought, but that doesn't mean she's stopped thinking things.  So as the gaggle spread out and start sampling the books!, one peels off and heads wherever Beatrice is going.

"I know any things about the science of book preservation, actually, and I don't know how much you do; I'd certainly like to help with anything like that, if you're interested in comparing notes.  And I'd like to stay here longer-term, at least somewhat, if you've any staff openings?  I haven't worked for a library before, but I'm certainly willing to learn the trade.  ...wonder if you have printing presses, or if state of the art is more 'throw magic at the problem'...what was Gutenberg's thing anyway, it wasn't just the moveable type, it was that it was specific metals...ugh, there was lead I'm pretty sure.  Lead's a horrible little gremlin of a metal; it's all nice and pliant and then it fucks up - well, at the very least human - brain development, maybe even grown brains, in a way that's not reversible by anything short of magic...well, assuming I know anything, which is...I would, but realistically, I hardly have sources that can be independently confirmed unless there's other isekais about, and even then who knows if that's still true here...and it's not actually something testable if you have even a smidgen of research ethics...enough about lead's suckiness, I think; I'd like to hear your story, if you wouldn't mind?  What brought this about?  And my compliments on the architecture, it's really very pretty."

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Beatrix leads the way into the library as Myria talks. The door closes behind them automatically.

"Yes, we have protective magic. I worked as a rune binder before working at the library, and I place enchantments on books that protect them from water, fire, and acid damage. However, these are not permanent, and I must refresh them every few years or so, so I place them only on particularly important or valuable books."

She is not fazed by the sudden gag! She's seen weirder in the Fringe.

"Er, what do you mean by brain computers? I've heard of computing devices before, but not ones put in brains. Perhaps a topic for another time."

She makes a grand sweeping gesture at all the books in the atrium.

"I'd love that. Book preservation is something we are very interested in. We know the basics. Certu regulates the temperature and humidity in the whole library, which has the advantage of making it comfortable for me too. He also ensures we don't get any bug infestations that might ruin the books. Yes, we have a printing press in my workshop, but we rarely use it.

Certu can make better copies. He can precisely inject his ink into sheets of extruded cellulose he makes, which is capable of copying out diagrams and pictures too. But only black-and-white – he can't make ink in any color other than shades of black. Also, it takes energy from him to do that, so we don't do it often. This is why we charge a cost for copying and printing services. Being able to print color pictures or have a better and more efficient printing press would be great. And no, the printing press does not have lead in it. I personally don't know the exact specifics of lead poisoning, but I do know that it stunts growth and causes brain issues if it gets into your body."

She sits down at the tables in the middle of the atrium. Unlike the study rooms, it's permitted to talk loudly here.

"As for you working here, I would be open to it, but not...immediately. I've been tracking the number of visitors who have been going to the library. It has always been a low number, but there has been a small but steady increase over the years. It would be good to have some help, even though it's not strictly necessary. The issue is that we prefer that the information we have be available to all. But I also know that there is much information that could be dangerous. A further issue is that dangerous information is also useful information. Information necessarily increases your ability to alter the world to your liking, for good, or for ill. Neither I nor Certu want to...be indirectly responsible for something very bad happening if a particular secret happened to fall into the wrong hands. But at the same time, it is really not up to us to decide what things ought to be known and not known.

It's a very difficult moral dilemma, and any compromise between those two values of ours is supremely dissatisfying. Still, we have to make it. Making you an employee would mean letting you walk unsupervised in the 'special' sections of the library, including the library's armory. You wouldn't be a very good employee otherwise. We've only met for ten minutes, and I'd need to get to know you for a lot longer for us to be comfortable with being in those areas freely. You are free to stay and potentially help out in other ways, though, such as with research. Renting a bedroom is free for the first five days.

It is very pretty, thank you. I had a hand in designing what it would look like. I met Certu as an adventurer in the Pink. At the time, he had captured me. I asked him to leave my books alone. It turns out that he didn't know what books were. I told him, and taught him how to read after he asked me to. He fell in love with them after that. He started out as a chest mimic, but we settled down here after a while. I used Earth Magic to shape the library's foundations and walls, and he would fill it in. We've been here for more than three hundred years. What about you? You said something about isekai-s, what are those?"

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"...Hm, do I know formulae for ink...c'mon, brain, CMYK, any day now...and oh!  You have computing!  Yay!  And yes of course you don't give full access on the spot, but maybe I could help with the public sections on a trial basis?"

Okay now there are more Myrias in the conversation; there's one muttering about  - "...wait, why not just enchant the rooms?  Shouldn't be too hard to - wait, hm, no, wait, maybe... okay I'm going to need paper and pencil to rough this out if I'm gonna - and - is rune etching supposed to be especially hard, actually, because apparently I can do it -", one nodding sagely at the safe-distribution-of-knowledge problem, "Yeah, I get it; there was a whole series of - I suppose you don't yet have television, probably, but wait you do have computers, anyway if the concept of watching an audiovisual record of fictional events is too foreign, imagine scrying a play and you won't be far off - anyway, Star Trek, a television series, had this concept of the Prime Directive, which is basically 'don't do uplift, no meddling with non-peers civilizations either to help or harm' - actually, can I telepathy that whole concept at you, it might be easier, even though it's really just refreshing to talk with my voice again -", another one is suddenly stricken by (politely quiet) panic in the middle of the library floor because infohazards!  AAAAAAH! until she's calmed down by Ophelia...and then has another panic when she realizes that she has any idea how she might try to make some, gods, why?!

That one is portaled out and replaced by another Myria, this one noticeably more armored than the rest of the gaggle, who also sets about finding pencil and paper and the existing state of the field of memetics and trying to rule out the existence of basilisks properly.  "Frankly, I'd hit the emergency button, but clearly your world has not already exploded so it can wait until I've done the research, but I need to rule out the existence of several classes of danger, so I might need books on especially mind magic and cross-school interactions with runes...ugh.  Please don't have antimemes.  I do not want to be Marion Wheeler.  It'd suck."

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Yet another Myria is quite happy to ramble about the isekai genre of fiction, as well as the quite clearly proven World of Fiction multiverse theory, even if she can't quite place where this world is from it's just too itself to have not also been someone's worldbuilding exercise somewhere...

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And Ophelia is investigating fashion.

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There are suddenly a lot of people! It's getting a little difficult for her to keep track of all the threads of conversation, but she does her best. But first, paper. She goes to a nearby drawer and there's sheets of paper and pens for them. Or, more precisely, extruded cellulose sheets and pens with tentacle ink.

"You can do rune etching? Wow!" She audibly gasps.

"I didn't get up to that level. You need...decades of study for that. I'm surprised you can do it. Er, you can't enchant the rooms. The enchantment places a...film of protective energy over the sheets and bindings. Putting the enchantment in the rooms would protect the rooms...but not the books themselves. Certu is able to shield me and the books from external threats. If there was something that could penetrate the walls and attack the room with acid or fire, we would have bigger problems.

I don't know what television is, but I do know of recorded video and audio. We have those in the library. Video and audio pieces can be recorded on scrying mirrors and orbs using magic. And yes, I don't mind telepathy. I had...assumed that you would be uncomfortable with it. It's one of the reasons Certu has me talk to people rather than him speak directly into your minds. Most people are not tentaclepeople and don't have any experience with people talking directly into their minds. They get very upset."

She doesn't understand a lot of the terms Myria is saying, but that's fine. She's worked with many excitable people like her in the past.

"I can get mind magic and cross-school magic books for you, although the more advanced mind magic books are in the special sections. Mind magic lets you, well, alter minds, so we're reluctant to let just anyone learn about those. What's an antimeme? It sounds...dangerous?"

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She listens to the other Myria talk about multiverses and fiction.

"Huh. So, if I understand correctly, we are living in a fictional universe, and there are others like it? I don't think you're lying, but...I'd need proof of that before I accept it. Is it even falsifiable or empirically testable?"

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"I mean, on a certain level, my very existence is evidence, because I'm here and as far as I know from a world where this sort of thing isn't, and if there's anyone else reporting similar experiences...that's certainly evidence of something, if not necessarily the broader implications? 

"...I have had the capability to do rune etching dumped into my head probably by a goddess and it itches."

Other Myriae are currently having a magic brainstorming huddle!  Somehow, talking to herself works for this when 'herself' is an alternate body, and she is so confused, but human neurology is just like that sometimes.

And Beatrix gets the concepts of [The Prime Directive (and its associated morality debates)], [isekai/portal fantasy], [a system in which library-marked books are tracked and protected from contact with damaging forces], [The SCP Foundation (fictional organization), memetic hazards, cognitohazards, antimemes], and [DANGEROUS INFORMATION: a theoretical process that produces propagating effects in pleasure-capable carriers by combining the idea of meta-spells/spell fractal self-similarity, mind and flesh magic, Living Clothes pleasure-to-power conversion, and rune binding-or-etching-or-something] gently (if with a very significant overtone of worrystress) deposited in her head!  "...Telepathy's really convenient and I don't get why so many people would have their default response be 'freak out' when it's a thing that's known to exist, but then again... I suppose any given person might process telepathy intelligently, but people, in the immortal words of agent K, 'are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it'.  I just bet you have personal experience with that unfortunate adage.  My condolences."

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"My apologies, but I'd need direct observation of you transporting yourself from your origin world to here or of transporting something from there to here to believe you're from another world. Right now, I'm simply thinking of you as someplace very far away, but still within this universe. I am...loath to accept a revelation as great as this on word alone. I hope you understand."

She blinks several times as she receives the information. It's gentle, but it's also a lot.

"My opinion on the Prime Directive is that people ought to have access to technology which might improve their lives. It's the same reason why Certu gives out reading lessons for free.

The isekai thing seems like a very interesting fiction book premise, but again, I would like to have evidence for this before I accept this as a fact which is true in my world.

Huh. I don't know that such things are a thing. It's possible to use mind magic to render someone insane, but I've never heard of like...a painting or picture that causes that just by observing it. That is horrifying.

I don't understand that thing you just sent. Is it schematics for a...generator? Torture device?

True, but people speaking into your mind is something you can also do with mind magic, and mind magic being done to you is dangerous. I've had the experience to know the slight differences between the sensations evoked by the two, but most people don't. It's not quite as irrational as you might think." Her tone is motherly, but not condescending.

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"In a sense, this is at least the same overarching universe-group anyway, if I'm here, so that's not even wrong. ...If the gods talk to people, maybe we could ask?

"It's...bits of knowledge loosely strung together that I'm hoping don't make - oh, dear gods, parasites exist.  Fuck, fuckfuckfuck, fuck.  And creatures with native spellcasting!  ...aaaaaaaaaah.  aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.  Okay.  Panic done.  ...I think that if this falls apart anywhere, it's in fiddly flesh magic quality control and the question of whether you can make meta-entads.  ...Magic-item making-or-affecting magic items, I mean."

"...Can't you tell when people are spellcasting at you, or?"

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Ophelia rocks the designated Panicking Myria (out browsing in the library, but now curled up into a ball) back and forth, helping her self-soothe, but even she has limits, and "my technically-mistress has just discovered a way to create horrors" is not something she can solve with her abilities; it's unlikely anyone could, she thinks.

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"Yes, there are many parasites in the world. Did you encounter any while walking through the Fringe or the Sallow? I or Certu could help you remove them if they're causing you issues.

You usually can, since most spells have a visible component. A fireball is easy to spot. But if the spell doesn't have such a component, or is of a form deliberately meant to deceive like illusion magic or mind magic, then it would require training and focus."

Beatrix is alarmed at Myria's panic, but fortunately does not see the other rocking Myria. Otherwise, she'd be panicked too, for potentially doing that to a guest.

 

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"No, no, it's not - specific parasites, it's the idea of parasites.  And what they're already known to do.  Because that puts options for creating all-too-comprehensible horrors on the table, and I do not like that.  It's not a pleasant thought to think, that someone could create...Demon Worms, but exponential."

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