The Return 

Like a prisoner or a princess, the book was to return with an escort of sargents and bailiffs. The book had traveled widely, had spoken to many, and had vivified cities, landscapes, and indelible faces. There were reports of wars, famines, intrigues, and plagues. Nevertheless, the caretakers of the book had always been cautious, and their care had not been in vain. Following their carriages were carriages filled with coffers of coin. The roadway itself sparkled with the nostalgia and expectation of centuries. The librarians who waited were surprised by the arrival. The carriages stopped. The book was unfettered from its guards and dropped into the dirt from the carriage door. The door closed. One by one, the carriages rolled off into a new and dark distance. One of the librarians reached down to help the book up, and realized she was a well preserved corpse, bloodless and pale, eviscerated and covered in markings, brands and criminal tattoos. Weeping, the old librarian kissed her cheeks and lifted her up into his arms, walking into the morning. The wind played with her long tresses. 

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