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The Disappearing Island (Chapter 5 of 6)

Title: The Disappearing Island (Chapter 5 of 6)
Fandom: Welcome to Night Vale/Cthulhu Mythos
Author: tikistitch
Rating: M
Characters/Pairings: Cecil/Carlos
Warnings: Cursing, sexual situations
Word Count: ~36,000 total
Summary: Carlos, a naturalist on board the HMS Vigilant, stumbles upon the ancient island of Nightlantis during a tour of the Pacific in the 1800s. There he unwittingly joins in a contest to win the beguiling Prince Cecil's hand in marriage.
Notes: At the end.

Port Stanley, Falkland Islands, Year of Our Lord 1855

The arrow thrummed. The bird fell.

“I’ll be damned,” said Captain Cochrane. As they were out of range of any polite ears, he did not apologize for his profanity, but only lit up another cigarette. “You’re as true a shot with a bow as any man with a gun.”

“I’ve found an arrow causes less damage to my specimens,” Carlos explained, scrambling up the hill to locate his prize. Fortunately, the bird had not fallen too far away. He did though regret the lack of hunting dogs on board. “And,” Carlos continued as the captain enjoyed his smoke, “unlike ammunition, arrows can be reused.” He plucked the arrow out of the bird, as if in demonstration.

“Bow hunting, rifles, and I heard from some of the crew you’re no slouch at throwing knives.”

Carlos blushed. “That was a silly bet,” he acknowledged. “I was a little under the influence.”

“For a man of medicine, you are one deadly individual, Dr. MacLachlan. I pity any pirates who might falter aboard.”

“Not likely that we’ll come upon pirates on this voyage,” laughed Carlos.

“You never know,” laughed Cochrane. “And now, let's hasten in. I've heard tell it's mail call today.”

Carlos stiffened. “Mail call? Here?”

“I've seen the ship come in. Come on, Carlos. Maybe it'll be a message from that sweetheart of yours back in Scotland.”

Carlos's whole manner darkened.

“Aw, don't worry, Carlos,” said the Captain as they began to walk. “I promise I won't tell her about that girl in Rio.”

“What- What girl in Rio?”

“No way of telling it was actually a boy,” said Cochrane, winking and strolling off.

Carlos bit his lip.

An Uncharted Isle, The Pacific Ocean, Year of Our Lord 1856

Carlos had administered a mild sedative to Cecil, and he was now sleeping, albeit fitfully, on the couch, while angels hovered nearby.

“I don’t understand how this will work, Josie,” said Carlos. “I’ve been around your library. There are no entrances.”

“Yes. And no exits,” she said.

Carlos sat down on the couch next to Cecil. “I don’t understand.”

“The librarians are the most ferocious creatures in Nightlantis,” Josie explained. “We are afraid of them: so afraid, most avoid even speaking the name. It is thought by some that they are the descendants of the original residents, the Old Ones. Others say the librarians were created as their servants.”

“But you don’t know?”

“Even my angels fear them. The Old Ones dwell on the lowest depths of Nightlantis, where no one dares go. And a few of them are said to roam the library, as librarians.”

Carlos sat back, watching Cecil breathe. So that explained why everyone here started to tremble when you mentioned books or the library. “Is there anything else you can tell me?”

Josie sighed and, pushing up her spectacles, rubbed her eyes. “I've heard tell that firearms ain't of any use against them. And people have tried all sorts of tricks, including silver bullets.”

“Silver bullets?” Carlos thought about it. “Is there anything that baits them, like the whiskey for the snark?”

“Haven't heard anything. Why someone would want to bait them, I don't know. Once you're in the stacks, they'll find you.”

Carlos sighed. He was a man who felt he could defend himself, but he liked to arm himself beforehand. He thought of a whole city cut off from knowledge, and it grieved him.

“One thing, an old story,” mused Josie. “I don't see if it will be of any use, but they say, if you can pin down a librarian, they'll be constrained to answer your questions.”

“Pin it down?” asked Carlos. “Are we supposed to wrestle?” Carlos suddenly imagined grappling with a librarian. How would it fight him? Would it rap his knuckles with a ruler? Perhaps toss a quill pen at him? It didn't make any sense. Although he had to admit nothing much in this world made a lot of sense. Which brought up another question.

“The library doesn't even have any doors. How will I ever get in?”

“You'll wake up inside, with a slight headache, and no memory of how you came to be there,” sighed Cecil.

Carlos turned in shock at the sound of Cecil's voice. “Cecil....” Cecil attempted to sit up, but Carlos gently pushed him back down. “Cecil, you are in a state. Please....”

“I can't be of use to you if I'm knocked out!” Cecil protested. Josie's angels fluttered in agitation.

“You've upset the angels,” Carlos chided.

“No,” said Josie. She went to the door, and Cecil and Carlos followed her, Carlos with a worried arm around Cecil.

Josie carefully pushed the door open. Everyone looked around.

Standing around was a group of children, all dressed in bright, mismatched clothing. Cecil’s old clothes: Carlos immediately recognized the jacket made of grass, and several other peculiar garments.

Two children stood a bit nearer: Tamika and Barton. Tamika was wearing a woman’s brocaded gown over her shirt and pants, and Barton sported some kind of bright purple deerskin vest. Both grinned, and Tamika pointed to a case left in the middle of the clearing.

And then, with no signal, the children scattered, and disappeared from whence they’d come.

Still barefooted, Carlos ventured out and squatted down next to the case. He opened the latches and viewed the contents.

“What is it, Carlos?” Cecil called from the doorway.

“A viola. My own viola, to be specific,” said Carlos, picking it up, setting it to his chin and drawing a bow across it. A lovely, low music emitted.

Cecil drifted out nearby. “Carlos,” he whispered. Josie’s angels hummed with pleasure. “How are you doing that?”

Carlos looked up from his instrument and glanced around the yard, where the children had been standing. He looked back at Cecil. Maybe this was a message? “I have an idea, Cecil. But I’m going to need something from the armory.”

Cecil went inside to get dressed, and Carlos, after fussing with the viola for a while, lay back on Cecil's couch, wondering if his plan had any prayer of working.

Carlos blinked awake back in at his family's residence in Strathlachlan. He was lying on a couch in his father's library, a striped tabby nibbling at his ear.

“Hey,” he said, shooing away the cat. He sat up, and the book that had been resting on his lap slid to the floor. He leaned over and picked it up. Oddly enough, it was not in English. Instead, it was written in some strange runes.

“What the blazes was I reading?” he asked. The cat sat up on the arm of the couch, grinning at him.

And then the music began to play, in a room somewhere nearby.

“What do you do with a sleeping Elder
What do you do with a sleeping Elder
What do you do with an abomination
When stars are align-ed?

Sacrifice a virgin 'till he's sated
Offer a virgin until he's sated
Give him a virgin until he's sated
That will make him happy!

What do you do if he's sort of racist
What do you do if he's sort of racist
How do you cope if he's problematic
When you write his story?

Write up your cast so it's more inclusive
Call out actions that are exclusive
Offer an array of teaching moments
When you are a writin'.

What do you do if you still feel icky
Taking a shower but still feel sticky
When your sources appear too sqicky
When you the typewriter keys a clicky
When you write your story

The cat screeched, and the music abruptly stopped. Carlos felt a paw batting at his face again.

“Khoshekh?” asked Carlos. He sat up, but the cat leapt away, knocking over the timepiece on the mantelpiece. It toppled over, and hit Carlos in the head.

Carlos moaned. He sat up, rubbing his head, stretching his limbs. He didn’t recall falling asleep, though he did remember having a very strange dream.

Suddenly, a shock of fear ran through him. He stared around at the high bookshelves.

He was inside the library.

Getting quickly to his feet, Carlos tried desperately to shake off the disorientation. Cecil and Josie had warned him about this, but it didn’t make it any less strange. He glanced around to make certain he had brought along his items and was grateful to see that they were nearby. He gathered up everything and, being as quiet as he could muster, went to seek out a relatively open area.

The library was lit, as was all of Nightlantis, with the strange artificial lights, but there weren’t a lot of fixtures inside, so it was exceedingly dim, and shadows fell everywhere. He wondered if the Nighlantis librarians were even sensitive to light. Perhaps they sensed his presence already, and were merely toying with him?

Carlos swallowed his fear and tried to find his way out of the stacks, pausing at the end of each seemingly endless high shelf to look around for his antagonist. He wondered what had become of Hiram McDaniels, and whether the dragon was in here, somewhere, as well? McDaniels certainly caused a commotion wherever he went, but this structure looked vast from the outside, and, given the sometimes odd geometry of the place, there was no telling how vast it really was on the inside. He seemed to be in the middle of the biography section right now. He glanced at some book spines, pulling one of them out and flipping through it. He had no idea who Helen Hunt was, but she seemed to have many, many books written about her. Some local celebrity?

Carlos paused, gathering his things close to him. He could have sworn he heard, far off, a faint scratching or scraping sound, like a cat clawing at a piece of furniture. He smiled, thinking back to his mother scolding the family pets for just an offense, and then wondered if perhaps Khoshekh had happened to be in here somewhere. The thought, somehow, cheered him.

He turned again, but saw no way out of the maze of high bookshelves. He glanced at the book spines, and realized that he was still in the biography section, except now the shelves were filled with books about someone named Sean Penn. This was not going to work for his plan: he needed a more open area. He glanced up and decided to attempt a climb up to the top to see his way clear.

As the scratching sound continued, he set down his burdens and began to climb, remembering when he and his brother had pulled off such stunts as boys. Their last foray had ended badly when his brother had pulled down an entire bookshelf, scattering first editions and breaking one of Mother’s vases. And somehow, of course, Rafael was almost instantly forgiven.

A book near his foot tilted over, and Carlos managed to keep it from falling by toeing it with his boot. He needed to pay attention. He glanced down over his shoulder and saw he was about halfway up the tall bookshelf. At least, he mused, it wasn’t cracking under his weight, the way the tree had been. He listened for a moment: he still heard the rough scratching from about the same direction.

He carefully made his way to the top shelf, and then poked his head over the top.

He immediately ducked back down. He’d seen the source of the scratching sound: over across the stacks, out in an open area, there was a huge monster. It looked somewhat like a winged lion. Was this the librarian? Carlos peeked at the creature again. It didn’t notice him, but seemed completely wrapped up in scratching at one of the couches set out for patrons to sit and read. The area was mostly clear, but for about a half dozen wide pillars that spanned from the floor up to the high ceiling. Perfect, he thought.

Carefully, he memorized his course to get out of the stacks, and then, as quietly as he could, descended back to the floor. He gathered his bags and ventured through the stacks, heading towards the monster, pausing at the last turn, before he would expose himself.

He hunkered down and opened a case, drawing out his viola. He had decided to essay a difficult piece, Berlioz’s Harold en Italie, as he lacked a companion, and it included a significant solo part for viola. He hadn’t any sheet music, so was hoping that his recollection would suffice. He had played the first part, Harold aux montagnes, for Cecil, but his friend seemed wary of the number for reasons Carlos couldn’t understand. (Cecil claimed he didn’t actually believe in mountains, despite, as Carlos had tried to convey, living his entire life inside one.)

Carlos steeled himself and, viola poised under his chin, rounded the corner of the bookshelf so he was now in full view of the creature, which appeared to be batting at the tasseled doily that was draped over the back of the now somewhat despoiled couch. He squared his jaw, and began to play, which drew the immediate attention of the monster. It jerked around, a pair of slitted emerald green eyes now fixed on Carlos as he drew bow over strings.

He tried to quiet his beating heart as the beast first reared up, opening its cruel jaws, spreading out its terrible wings. Unlike Hiram McDaniels, who sported leathery, bat-like wings, this creature had wings like that of an eagle of other bird of prey, albeit in giant size.

He noticed something else: one of its front paws, which was furry but sported an eagle’s talons, clutched at a large, old book. Perhaps this really was a librarian after all? Carlos wondered as he played whether it was a biography of Helen Hunt or Sean Penn, as so far these were the only books he had seen in the vast holdings.

Was its breathing getting more and more shallow? It seemed so. The wings had folded down as he played, and, as if it were being lulled to sleep, it stretched out, making a hash of the carpet with its long talons.

Careful not to lose his place in the piece, Carlos stepped back a few paces, and the creature ambled along towards him, finally stopping right in front of one of the great pillars. He stood still, and continued playing. It yawned and smacked, and then curled up on the floor, its eyes blinking.

Just a few measures more, thought Carlos, as the beast’s breaths became more shallow, and its eyes fluttered closed. He thought he heard a soft snore.

He dropped the violin and dove for his bag.

In an instant, the beast blinked awake and reared up, roaring, wings spread wide, agitated at the cessation of the music. It reared back to pounce.

Carlos drew back his bow, and loosed an arrow. But his intent was not to kill. The beast screamed as an arrow pierced one broad wing and slammed into the pillar behind it, pinning it behind. It flapped and screamed and squawked in protest, but it was caught, like a butterfly on a pin.

Carlos lowered the bow, breathing hard. “I believe I now get my questions answered.”

The creature sighed, and, sensing it was trapped, slipped down, its back against the pillar. As it sagged, it appeared to shrink, until it was not a winged lion, but merely a man, Carlos’s arrow piercing not its wing, but a piece of his shirt.

“Go ahead,” the man sighed.

“You don’t seem like an Old One.”

“What?” he asked. “No! And I’m not a griffin either. I just came in here to check out a book. The door was open, so I decided to take a look around. I mean, I paid enough taxes on this stupid library, I thought I might as well get some use out of it!”

Carlos hunkered down so he was at eye level. “I’m Dr. Carlos Gutierrez MacLachlan. Carlos.”

“I am, or I was, Mr. Stephen Carlsberg,” sighed the librarian. “You can call me Steve. I came in to check out a book.”

“That book?” asked Carlos, pointing to the one he was clutching.

“No! I wanted to get a biography of Helen Hunt. But the guy gave me this book, and I was stuck! Really annoying, how much government services have declined, don’t you think?”

“I have a hunch I might know how to get you un-stuck,” said Carlos. “But first, I have a couple of questions for you.”

“Ask away! I don’t know if I’ll have the answer,” muttered Steve, who started scratching at the carpet with his free hand.

“All right, first question, what will happen to Cecil when this contest is done?”

Steve suddenly got a strange look to him, as if he’d had one drink too many with dinner. The book clutched in his hands sprung open, and he began to read in what sounded like a disembodied voice. “Cecil will be the sacrifice. A sacrifice must be made. The Old One lies sleeping beneath the mountain.”

“Is there any way….” Carlos trailed off, choosing his words. “Is there any way to avoid this? Can there be another sacrifice?”

The book, of its own accord, began to turn pages. “There must be a sacrifice,” intoned Steve.

“But it doesn’t have to be Cecil?”

“There must be a sacrifice.”

“How do you get to be a sacrifice?”

Steve paused. The book’s pages ruffled. He began to read again. “They must come into the room willingly.” And then the book slammed shut.

Carlos crept over towards Steve, who still seemed out of it. Being careful not to touch it, he peered at the book cover. This book was not written in English, and said nothing regarding Helen Hunt or Sean Penn: instead, was the weird hieroglyphics he had seen around Nightlantis.

“That book is from the Old Ones,” Carlos mused.

“Huh?” said Steve. He seemed to be as one coming out of a dream. “Pardon me?”

“Oh,” said Carlos. “Excuse me! I need to check out a book in order to complete my task.”

“Could I please be released?” asked Steve. “I can’t get to the desk with an arrow stuck through me like this.”

“If I do, will you promise not to misbehave? And please take care of the furniture!”

“But I like to scratch. My claws get so dull.”

Carlos sighed. “We’ll try to get you a good scratching post. In the meantime, can you recommend a good book?”

“We have many captivating biographies of-“

“Something that does not involve Miss Hunt or Mr. Penn?”

Steve frowned.

“I find Mr. Penn to be very inspiring, Carlos. Do you know he saved several people from drowning?”

“Hrm?” said Carlos. He had sitting at the table trying to read his book, but, as his mind had drifted, had actually spent the last few moments watching Babbage cart out a few of Cecil’s rugs to take to the library for a new scratching post for the librarian.

Cecil got up from the couch, to stand next to Carlos. “Oh, no, Babbage, not that one!” He strode over to the mechanical man to rescue a really hideous purple area rug. With a huff of frustration, Babbage did an about-face and tromped back to the store room.

“Does anyone know what’s become of Hiram McDaniels?” Carlos asked.

“Mmm, very little. It was known that he was taken in after you had returned. But as you know, it’s difficult to see into the library.

Carlos nodded. After completing his check out, he had apparently lost consciousness, and the next thing he remembered was waking up on a very thrilled Cecil’s couch, together with his viola, his bow and quiver, and several biographies of Sean Penn.

And he also now had a history of Nightlantis, only it was not written in English, but in the strange language of the Old Ones. So the translation had been slow, as he was really not entirely certain what he was looking for. But what he had seen already was exceedingly worrying.

“I wonder if Mr. Carlsberg transformed back into a griffin before Mr. McDaniels entered the space?” said Carlos.

“Mr. Carlsberg sounds intensely irritating,” huffed Cecil.

“Oh, he's fine, when he's in his human form, really,” said Carlos, but Cecil thumped back on the couch and went back to his biography.

“I prefer to choose Mr. Penn as my role model from here on,” sniffed Cecil.

Carlos rubbed his eyes and went to sit down next to Cecil. “Cecil, I need to figure out what we're to do after the ceremony. From what I've gathered so far from my reading, Nightlantis surfaces once every two hundred years.”

“Give or take,” said Cecil. “As I've said, time works differently here.”

“At that point, the Old Ones require a sacrifice. If there isn't a sacrifice, Nightlantis will not just sink back under the ocean: it will be destroyed!”

“Well, yes, there is that,” said Cecil, still poring over his book. “Any idea who Mr. Hugo Chavez is? He's referred to often.”

Carlos put out a hand to touch his friend's shoulder. “Cecil, you are currently the sacrifice.”

Cecil looked down. “Well, yes, there's that.”

Carlos frowned. “Wait. You knew this?”

Cecil sighed and set down his book. “I've been raised as the sacrifice. It's my fate.” He glanced up at Carlos. “But, it's been all right, really. I didn't expect to fall in love. That was neat.” He smiled, and reached out to brush Carlos's cheek with his fingertips. He shrugged. “And the sexual intercourse was nice as well.”

“Cecil,” Carlos whispered. “We just met! I don't want to lose you.”

“Well, you were going back, regardless. You know, when the portal opens.”

“But I thought-” There was a great rumbling outside. “That came from the direction of the library!” said Carlos. He dashed out the door, Cecil following behind him, and Babbage tromping along behind.

There was a great clamor arising from the library, and a small crowd had gathered outside. There was clanging and bashing and shouting and banging and there were flames shooting out of some of the ducts on the roof.

“Is it McDaniels?” Carlos asked. He looked around and saw that some citizens were exchanging money: they were obviously betting on the outcome. Miss Hidge arrived, accompanied by her assistants, and then the City Council came as well, all flush-faced.

There was a cacophonous roar, and suddenly, one wall of the library erupted into flames. The crowd edged back, as some of the people standing too close had gotten slightly singed. There were roars and squalls from inside, and then, with a crash, part of the side of the building fell down.

There was a silence for a moment, as the dust settled and the ruins smoldered.

And then there was a single figure, visible through the smoke and haze.

Mr. Stephen Carlsberg, still clutching his book very tightly to his chest, emerged, picking his teeth with a toothpick.

He rubbed his belly, which seemed a bit swollen, and emitted a loud, very rude burp.

“Tastes like chicken,” he said aloud.

“Rude!” whispered Cecil.

A soft cry went up amid the crowd. “Where is Mr. McDaniels?” asked Carlos.

“Hello, Dr. MacLachlan!” said the librarian, who was still standing just inside the library as, one supposed, he was forbidden by whatever spell bound him to leave the premises. “Mr. McDaniels is currently making a circuit of my digestive tract. I think the green head is probably in the duodenum by now.”

“Citizens!” shouted Miss Hidge. “I believe I can make an announcement. I believe that the winner of this contest is-”

But suddenly she was knocked off her feet by another trembling. More bits of the library fell.

The pavement beneath their feet cracked. The crowd once again screamed and scattered as the fissures grew wider and wider.

“Is this an earthquake?” asked Carlos. “Is the island sinking again?”

“It's not time yet!” said Josie, who had arrived, along with her angels. “The stars are not yet in alignment. It must be something else.”

The something appeared to be rising from the depths of Nightlantis. Slowly, it cracked through the pavement and began to take shape. It was a large structure, not as large as the library, but quite substantial. But unlike the library, this building had windows and doors.

There was now a figure visible through one of the windows. A very naked figure.

At last, the shaking stopped, and the building came to rest. The crowd gathered around as Marcus Vansten emerged from the new structure, his mechanical men behind him, holding a stack of books.

“Behold the new Nightlantis Library! It was built by me, expressly for me, because I am quite rich. And as you see I have completed the task of checking out not one, but several books.”

“Vansten,” said Carlos. “That can't be in the rules. You can't build a library just for yourself!”

“There is nothing in the rules that says I can't.”

Miss Hidge was conferring with the City Council, who were rifling nervously. At length, she turned. “We cannot find any violation by Mr. Vansten. As he says, there is no rule that expressly forbids constructing your own library for the purposes of this task.”

There were moans and groans from the crowd. As well as the exchange of a great deal of cash.

“However, I have to state, Mr. Vansten, you also failed at the second task, hunting a snark.”

Vansten stepped forward. “I have evidence,” he announced, “that Dr. MacLachlan is not eligible for this contest. He is already affianced!” One of his mechanical men clomped forward, and brought out a coat. Vansten reached into the jacket pocket and retrieved a much-folded letter.

“You- You're the one! You stole my coat!” shouted Carlos.

“No, of course not. I had my sentinels do it,” said Vansten.

Carlos was about to reply in a most intemperate manner, but felt a cool hand on his arm. “Carlos,” said Cecil, his voice quavering, “is this true?”

Carlos bit his lip. “Vansten, have you actually read the letter?”

Vansten shook his head. “I don’t need to read. I’m-“

“Yes, I know, you’re really rich.” Carlos turned to Cecil. “Read the letter, Cecil. Please,” he said.

Looking uncertain, Cecil reached out to grab the letter, which Vansten would have plucked away, had Babbage not grabbed it from him.

As they all stood around the new library steps, Cecil cleared his throat and began to read.

“My dearest Carlos,

I pray as always this missive finds you in good health. Please know that whatever our circumstances, I honestly hope and pray for your safe journey, and eventual return to your family and loved ones.

I fear I do not know how to properly express what is contained in this letter, and you will please excuse my poor skill at writing. My sisters often make fun of me for not paying attention in class. I wish now that I had gleaned more from my English composition, although pleasant words perhaps will not make the meaning within less hard to endure.

Dear and faithful Carlos, it is with a heavy heart that I must report to you, soon after you departed, I began to pay visits to Strathlachlan, where your parents have been most welcoming. While I passed the time there, I had occasion to reacquaint myself with your brother, Rafael. Although our former acquaintanceship had led to many a misunderstanding, I believe that now your brother sees the former error of his ways, and so he was able to express freely to me the genuine longing of his heart.

The conclusion of this is that, before long, we realized that we still harbored a great deal of affection for one another. And that, even though I had been promised to you, it would not be honest of me to venture into a sacred compact such as one of marriage when in truth my heart now belongs to another.

As of the time I put pen to paper, I have been wed to your brother for a fortnight….”

As a gasp went up from those gathered around, Cecil abruptly stopped reading, his eyes welling up. Carlos nodded, and, his voice husky, Cecil continued.

As of the time I put pen to paper, I have been wed to your brother for a fortnight. We eloped, and escaped to London, where your uncle lives, and have been making a home down there. Your father has not reacted well to this, and has disinherited Rafael. I hope that in time, you can find it in your heart to forgive us, and to forgive your brother, and I implore you to help and mend this rift that has grown between Rafael and your father.

I remain, ever, your correspondent

Mrs. Rafael MacLachlan (Temperance)

“My parents insisted on the marriage,” Carlos explained. “It was the worst thing that has ever happened in my life, and broke my heart. I received that letter some weeks ago, at our last port of call. I have re-read it every day since. That’s why it was in my coat pocket. I thought my heart would ever bear the wound, until I met you, Cecil.”

There were quite a lot of adoring “Awwww’s” cooed by especially the female members of the crowd.

Cecil ran to Carlos, and they embraced.

The City Council shuffled, and came up King of hearts, Queen of Hearts, Ace of Hearts.

“I think we can declare a winner,” said Miss Hidge.

“You can do no such thing!” yelled Vansten. “I'm still very, very rich!”

“But, you're not actually the wealthiest person in Nightlantis,” said Carlos.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

Carlos pointed to Mr. Carlsberg, who was still standing in the ruined wall of the old library. “You see that book Mr. Carlsberg is holding? It's not only expensive, it is, in fact, priceless.”

“Priceless?” asked Vansten, who started to get a faraway look in his piggish eyes.

“It is the only copy in all of Nightlantis. It is the only copy in all the world.”

“That can't be! If it's expensive, then it is by rights, mine.”

“It's true, Carlos,” said Cecil. “Mr. Vansten is very rich, and therefore, a great guy.”

“No,” said Carlos, “I'm afraid that book is in the hands of the public librarian, so it therefore belongs to the public.”

“No more!” shouted Vansten. “Sentinels!” he yelled. His mechanical men went up and surrounded Carlsberg, who didn't really seem terribly perturbed. “Give me that book!” he demanded.

Carlsberg grinned, gave another, smaller burp, and shoved the book into Vansten's hands.

Vansten let out a shriek. There was a howl of wind, and he and his mechanical men were suddenly sucked into the old library. And then, with a glow of light, the wall of the library repaired itself, until it was once again sealed tight.

Carlsberg, who was standing outside rubbing his stomach, said, “I have a bit of a digestive upset. Does anyone have some soda water?”

“I believe we can now finally declared a winner!” said Miss Hidge before the dust had even settled. “Oh, look, here is the mayor herself!”

With the faint scent of olives, there was suddenly a woman standing amidst them, dressed in an elaborate gown. She held a scepter topped by a heart, and her ornate crown contained several heart-shaped jewels.

“Your Honor,” said Miss Hidge, curtseying before her. The City Council formed up behind her in neat rows, as if setting up for a game of Canfield Solitaire. Those wearing the suit of hearts were all arrayed at the front.

“That's actually not a very good hand,” Carlos commented.

Mayor Winchell pointed her heart scepter at Carlsberg. “Off with his head!” she declared.

“What?” protested Carlsberg, as several of the club-suited City Council members surrounded him. “I only asked for a seltzer water!”

“Stop right there!” protested Carlos, despite Cecil attempting to hold him back. “This man has done nothing wrong.”

“Who are you?” sniffed Mayor Winchell.

“I am Dr. Carlos Gutierrez MacLachlan, and I am the winner of Prince Cecil's hand!”

“Prince Cecil?” asked Mayor Winchell. “Married? When did this happen?”

“Possibly while you were afire. Or perhaps when you were transubstantiating into wine,” sighed Miss Hidge. To be honest, her job as the mayor's assistant must have been a trial.

Just then, as if things needed to be even more complicated, a shot rang out. Nightlantis citizens dove for cover.

Carlos peered at the mayor who had fallen beside him. Her gown was now soaked in blood. He crawled over to her to check her. “The mayor is dead!” he declared.

“Are you sure she's not just changing forms again?” sighed Miss Hidge.

Carlos shook his head. “No, she's really dead.” But suddenly the mayor transformed into a scarab beetle, which skittered off.

“See?” said Miss Hidge.

“Savage Negroes,” came a cry.

Carlos looked over to where a crazed Thurston was now holding a gun on Cecil.

“Oh, not you again!” Cecil told Thurston.

“Cecil, be careful!” called Carlos. “He's a murderer!”

Thurston grabbed Cecil by the hair and, pulling him along, ran into Vansten's library building.

“Cecil!” shouted Carlos. Heedless to the danger, he ran into the library building after Cecil. He was just in time to see Vansten and his hostage disappear down a staircase towards Nightlantis's lower levels.

But just at that moment, the earth beneath him trembled terribly, and he was thrown to the floor. He heard a rumble, and covered his head just as part of the ceiling collapsed.

The tremor ceased and Carlos leapt to his feet. But rubble now blocked the staircase leading downwards.

He rushed back out of Vansten's library building. “I lost Thurston! What was that shaking?” he asked.

“Oh,” said Josie, who was still standing nearby with her angels, “the island has started sinking.”

“What?” asked Carlos. “I thought the stars weren't in alignment yet.”

Josie looked at her angels, who hummed in agreement. “Not back when you last asked, but they are now.”

“But it's only been five minutes!” Carlos protested.

Josie shrugged. “The Old Ones require their sacrifice. Otherwise, Nightlantis will be destroyed.”

Carlos's mind raced. “And Cecil is the sacrifice.”

“Yes. They tend to be rather picky about things like that.”

“So we need to get him back....”

Josie nodded, and her angels ruffled their feathers. “Yes, we need to bring Prince Cecil back alive. So we can sacrifice him.”

Carlos looked around. It seemed everyone in the crowd was no staring at him. “You know, your town can sometimes get quite irritating!”


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( 3 rants — Rant incoherently )
Jan. 15th, 2014 01:10 am (UTC)
I approve of multiply-deadly Carlos.

Poor Carlos keeps passing out and waking up in odd places. It's like fate is roofie-ing him.

Ha, his unwanted fiancee dumped him. Well that's nice.

Funny how Carlos is the only one who has any issues with sacrificing Cecil.
Jan. 18th, 2014 02:27 am (UTC)
Did I ever reply to this? My brain is gone.

I approve of multiply-deadly Carlos.

Deadly Carlos is best Carlos.

Ha, his unwanted fiancee dumped him. Well that's nice.

Sorta stole the plotline from Sense and Sensibility, but I doubt anyone minds.

Funny how Carlos is the only one who has any issues with sacrificing Cecil.

Nightlantis is starting to try poor Carlos's patience I think.
Jan. 18th, 2014 02:31 am (UTC)
It was spn night and I commented with less than an hour to go, you have an excellent excuse.
( 3 rants — Rant incoherently )