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A darkness comes, a subtle shiver felt across the world. Something is wrong; some aspect of the Wrangulator has shifted out of true and the wranglers look at each other with wide, fearful eyes.

The newer wranglers confer among themselves, whispers that echo tinnily across the breadth of the machine they call home. Impasto and Luzula argue quietly over a schematic of the Wrangulator, long outdated and made almost useless by generations of tweaks to the internal clockwork of the machine. Cesy tosses off her goggles in frustration—they all can feel the creeping wrongness that permeates the Wrangulator, sinking into hidden nooks and crannies, disturbing the order of their universe.

This is their home, and they will not relenquish it without a fight.

The tags rustle in the soundless breeze, restless and uneasy, and Highlander_II reaches out a gentle hand to soothe, to calm. Were_duck moves to help her, picking her way carefully between the tags.

Julieann grips Jinjur's shoulder, reminding her of the dark times in the past, when the Wrangulator faltered, when the tribe of wranglers was smaller. Wranglers were nothing but strangers passing in the night, then, their faces unknown to each other.

"Now", says Julieann, her voice strong and steady, "we are sisters. We are heart-known and no darkness can defeat us."

The wranglers nod, bolstered by her confidence. They pick up their tools and spread out, singing softly, holding up their lanterns, searching for the falseness that warps the Wrangulator.

Inkstone finds the source of the corruption, hidden behind a pile of discarded tags that have been raked. She cries out fearfully as the blackness creeps toward her, tentacles reaching hungrily for her. "Non-canonical synonym canonical, SPLODEY," it whispers in a voice like broken gears grinding. Hermitsoul and Spuffyduds quickly pull Inkstone out of the monster's reach, wide-eyed and shaking. They have never seen such a hungry, evil thing.

Julieann pushes the small crowd of wranglers aside and starts to chant at the noxious presence, using the wranglers' words of power to drive it back. "Canonical. Unambiguous. Freeform.

The monster twists and writhes, screeching in pain. Enigel covers her ears and shudders at the sound. Jinjur hugs her close and watches as Julieann battles the wrongness, drawing it out of its hiding place and forcing it away.

"Metatags."

With a final, lingering scream, it disappears.

The wranglers hold their breath for a moment, waiting. They all feel it, the release of tension as the Wrangulator shifts back to its accustomed pathways, twisting back into true.

And so it goes.

They gather and celebrate, a sisterhood of word-warriors, honor bound to this machine and its function. Their function.

Time is endless, and the Wrangulator shines like a beacon, guiding the way.

-fin-