Amid the trackless wastes of the eternal desert, half-buried in the ever-shifting sands, there stood the Great Library.
Though known far and wide as the repository of all the knowledge in the world, it was seldom visited, for few knew the way, and fewer still could hope to complete the arduous journey. Only a bare handful of those dared to risk encountering the Librarian, a powerful and easily angered spirit...
... or the person who had long resided in the reading room of the east wing: the legendary Witch of the Library, of whom, it was whispered, even the Librarian was afraid.
Any outsider bold enough to brave the wastes and breach the sanctum would likely not have been particularly impressed at the sight of that person. Ensconced in an armchair at the end of a long reading table, she had the aspect of a young woman, possibly still in her teens, of unexceptional stature, her small frame swathed in a voluminous robe of pale violet. Her long, straight hair was violet too, of somewhat darker cast.
Something about her gave the impression that she had occupied that chair for years, perhaps decades. The table before her and the space all around her were piled high with books, scrolls, even stone tablets, in great number and with no obvious organization. Right now, she had a trio of large, leather-bound volumes propped open before her, as if on lecterns—but there was no lectern there, the books instead hovering in thin air.
The witch's solemnly composed face, though quite youthful, was drawn—almost gaunt—and pale. Only her eyes, large and black behind wire-rimmed spectacles, had any spark to them, as they flicked restlessly over page after page at an unnatural rate. The books' pages turned by themselves, untouched by her long, thin hands, their rustling the only sound in the room.
Presently, a door off to one side opened and another woman entered the chamber. This one was taller, more robust, crisply uniformed in dark business attire and a white shirt. The heels of her shoes clacked on the stone floor as she crossed the room. She halted a pace or two from the table and stood silently, waiting to be recognized. As the silence stretched, she began to fidget, the little batlike wings protruding through her long red hair at the sides of her head shifting nervously.
"What is it, Koakuma?" the woman in violet inquired without looking away from her book. Her voice was low and slightly hoarse, as from disuse. It took on a note of annoyance as she continued, "I thought I told you I wasn't to be disturbed."
"I know, Mistress, but... you need to see this at once."
The violet-clad girl kept reading for several more pages in each book (which took only a few seconds), then grudgingly marked her places, dismissed the books to one of the piles with a negligent wave of her hand, and turned to the redhead.
"Show me," she said curtly. Without a word, Koakuma took a folded newspaper from under her arm and handed it over.
Arching an eyebrow, the witch unfolded it and oriented herself. It was an issue of Le Matin, the Paris morning newspaper, dated June 28, 1946. Her brow knitting, the witch was on the verge of asking her familiar what could possibly be in a Gallian morning newspaper that was important enough to interrupt her research—
—when her eye fell upon the two portraits reproduced just below the bellowing top headline: RETOUR DES VAMPIRES!
She gazed in disbelief at the pictures for some time before finally reading the article that began underneath them. This took all of a few seconds, after which she put the paper down and just sat staring at it for nearly a full minute.
"My gods," she murmured at length. "They're alive." She turned to Koakuma. "How?"
"I know no more than you do, Mistress," Koakuma replied, shrugging. "Shall I conjure the other Paris papers? They may have more information."
The witch shook her head. "No. Not necessary." Then, with a sudden burst of energy, she rose from her chair. Once fully upright, she tottered slightly, but caught herself on the table and said before her familiar could interject, "Make preparations for a portal. Now."
Koakuma blinked in shock. "Mistress?"
"You heard me," the witch snapped, and then, without another word, she swept out of the room, her steps becoming surer as she went, and headed for the Great Rotunda.
There, as she expected, she found the Librarian at his podium, directing the efforts of the knowledge-seeking spirits who flitted here and there throughout the world, perpetually stocking the library with all that had been discovered or created since last they passed by. At her approach, he looked startled, then seemed to catch himself.
"Lady Patchouli, She Who Knows One Million Things," he said, inclining his head. "To what do I owe the rare pleasure of a personal encounter?"
Skipping over any niceties or preamble, Patchouli replied, "I'm leaving."
The Librarian gave a long-suffering sigh. "When should I expect your return?" he inquired, his tone of voice somewhere between respectful and resigned.
"You shouldn't," Patchouli replied flatly. "I doubt I'll ever be back."
At this, the Librarian's great, lamplike eyes blinked in surprise. "... I beg your pardon?"
"I'm going home."
"I was under the impression you had taken the Library as your home," said the Librarian with faint asperity.
"'Home' as in the place I came from," Patchouli explained. "The world where I was born." Folding her arms, she smirked slightly and chided him, "You should be pleased, Wan Shi Tong. Your fondest wish is coming true. I'm giving you back your library at last."