Object 143

The Holder of the Seal

In any city, in any country, go to any mental institution or halfway house you can get yourself to. Ask the person behind the counter to speak to the one who calls himself "The Holder of the Seal". The clerk ought to begin to giggle gleefully and run out the front door, seemingly overjoyed.

Wait for the doors to close, and then quickly follow the employee. You'll find the air and the crash of waves just audible above the cries of the local fauna. There is a chateau at the top of a towering, sheer cliff overlooking the balmy seawater; go to it. Be careful as you trek through the forest, or along the shore, whichever way your journey takes you - this forest, though it may look it, is not of this world.

The chateau should appear deserted, dilapidated, and in disrepair. If it does, enter. If it doesn't, then leave the area. Build yourself a hut, and wait the days or months until it does. You want no part of what's going on inside. Once it looks aged and decrepit, enter.

When you do enter the chateau, make your way toward the cliff, toward the sea. You're looking for a towering set of mahogany double doors, engraved with arcane letters and symbols. These are of the Language; don't stare at them for too long, lest they consume you.

Enter. You'll find a library of sorts, looking out over the sea through an enormous panoramic window. There will be many, many bookshelves crammed with dusty books whose pages haven't felt the touch of a hand - human or otherwise - for untold millennia. Don't dwell too long on these; there are two thousand of them, and if you stop to satisfy your curiosity, you'll join the other corpses in the room. You might even see one at your feet: the remains of a previous Seeker who couldn't resist. There's no way to know for sure, though; this Holder likes to tidy up every now and then. There will be reading chairs, too, larger and softer than you could have imagined possible, made of materials long gone from this world. These, too, may have corpses in them, each one hunched over a book.

There will be one bookshelf with only a few books on it, the rest scattered all over the floor in front of it or held in the dead hands of the corpses in the chairs. This is the one you care about.

At some point during your time in this library, you'll run into the Holder of the Seal: an aged, decaying old man with reading glasses and a flowing robe that looks like it might once have been beautiful. He, like his brethren, will respond to only one question: "Am I the one to stop Them?" Ask it, and he'll ask you to help him put the books away. It would be awfully rude to decline.

As you're about to put the last book in place, stop, and ask the man again: "Am I the one to stop Them?" He'll tell you, in maddening detail, what it will take to stop them. The sacrifice, tribute, suffering, torment, and vengeance that must be visited on mankind to keep them from coming together. Finally, he'll answer your question: You hold in your hands the means to stop them. If you've been paying attention while reshelving the books, you'll have noticed that by this time you have placed five-hundred and thirty-seven on the shelf. Place the five-hundred and thirty-eighth book on the shelf, and the 538 Objects' powers will be sealed, their special properties lost, their evil banished, and their Holders and Seekers freed.

And there, as they say, is the rub. Because some Holders are better off imprisoned by their Objects. And quite a few Seekers won't be happy to find that the precious Objects they've gone through so much trouble to collect are now ordinary objects. In fact, they'll probably be rather angry. And they'll definitely be on their way to the chateau.

Now you have to make a choice - you can leave, right now, and you might make it back to the doors you entered this world through before the swarm of enraged Holders and Seekers arrive to punish the one who's upturned their world. If you leave, they'll find only the Holder of the Seal, tear him to pieces, and rip the books off their shelves, restoring the 538 to power and returning motion to the wheels that grind the cosmos ever close to Their reunion. You may escape with your life, but you won't obtain this Object.

If you truly seek to stop Them, however, then you must stay in the library. Soon, every horror ever known will arrive and throw itself against the walls, windows, roof, and fountain of the chateau. They won't get in right away, however; this is the Holder's domain, and he has some power here. He won't be able to last for long, though, old as he is, so you'll have to act quickly. Somewhere on the bookshelf is the story of this Object - its Book. You must find it and read it. Be warned: the titles, pages, and labels on the shelves are all in the Language, and they're not in any order that makes sense to mortals. Furthermore, each Book contains the full history of its Object - the full history, with every gruesome detail of every Seeker, Holder, or other being that ever came into contact with it. As you read a Book, you'll find yourself drawn into the story so much that the trials of each Seeker will become yours - their madness, their fear, their greed, and, more importantly, their injuries. Don't dwell too long on the wrong Book. Find the right Book, and read it. If you survive, the old man will vanish, and you will become acutely aware of every board, nail, wall, nook, and cranny of the chateau, every contour of every chair, shelf, and book in the library, and every word of every Book. If this doesn't shatter your fragile sanity, then congratulations: You are now the Holder of the Seal.

They are sealed, but Hell is coming to set them free. Keep the Books shelved for as long as you wish to stay Their hand.

... If, on the other hand, you wish to claim this Object for yourself - and damn the rest of eternity by doing so - then simply take the Book and leave. Just don't take the wrong one - no Holder or Seeker that is or ever was in existence will be pleased to have their every secret laid bare in your hands, and you'd be surprised just how many would go out of their way to remove them. Hand and secrets, that is. Again, though, everything is in the Language, and you run the risk of getting lost in any Book you open to check. If you manage to find the proper Book before the Holder weakens and the legions of the damned crash through the wide window to exact their punishment, then flee out the front door. If you've found the right Book, you'll find yourself outside the mental institution you started at, as if you'd just burst out the front doors.

As long as you possess that Book, no Object can harm you. As long as you possess that Book, They cannot be stopped, for there will always be one Book missing from the shelves.

That Book is Object 143 of 2538. You have broken the seal and scattered the pieces - how long can you live with what you've done?