Something had gone wrong. Poe, the technological marvel responsible for opening and closing doors between the Great Library in the Evermore and nearly every story ever written, had not been herself for some time. It was bad enough that she was no longer speaking to Darke, the Great Library’s agent of change, but as he began what he thought would be nothing more than a research journey into a Russian social drama, Poe opened a door from one of the library’s many reading rooms into a world of magic and monsters Darke was not yet prepared to visit.
Thinking he was bound for a tale in which the harshest threat he might face would be the over-protective mother of a future cosmonaut, Darke had foregone his usual array of weapons and planned to rely solely on his stealth, which proved problematic when the first person to greet him on the other side of the inter-dimensional door was a possessed monster of a man—though his appearance suggested far more monster than man—wielding a flaming sword.
The brute was incredibly fast for his size and struck without warning. Had Darke not quickly moved to shut the door instead of defending himself, the Great Library might have, once again, been compromised. Instead, Darke’s sacrifice prevented the breach but cost him an arm. Poe bleeped and warbled a report on the wound’s severity, but shock prevented Darke from checking her pulsing screen on his left forearm. He was more concerned with the detached and bloody state of his right arm lying lifeless on the dirt floor of the small hunting cabin he had inexplicably stepped into.
The monstrosity, tattooed and thick with hard-won muscle, stepped over the gory appendage and raised the sword high to deliver a killing stroke.
“Please,” was all the traveler could manage. His head was swimming from the loss of blood and his modest lunch of bread, cheese and wine seemed poised for a return engagement.
As he lost consciousness, Darke thought he heard someone else shouting.