It all started on a quiet afternoon of an unremarkable day in nineteen thirty four. Or was it nineteen thirty seven? Nineteen thirty eight, maybe? To be honest, the man who had been calling himself Jenkins for the past several centuries did not really know and did not particularly care either. He had long ago given up counting the years. He usually only paid enough attention to the calendar to ensure that he did not accidentally attempt to go grocery shopping on the day before a major holiday, because nothing was worth the aggravation of those kind of crowds. No, he had his solitude and his research, and that was good enough for him.
On this particular day, in whatever year it happened to be, Jenkins's precious solitude was sadly doomed to be short lived. He was right in the middle of drinking an afternoon cup of coffee while trying to activate the magic in an ancient dagger of unknown origin (it looked to be of a style common during the Roman Republic, but the tiny engravings on the hilt indicated the rattling inside the handle came from the finger bones of a saint who had lived during the middle ages, and what little information he could glean about its power was that it had some kind of ability relating to plants) when he heard the unmistakable grinding noise of stone against stone. He took a step back from his work and glanced suspiciously at the dagger where it sat clamped in a small set of articulated cold forged iron vices with grounding chains trailing down off the table and onto the floor to bleed off unwanted magical discharges. The grinding noise stopped. Cautiously, Jenkins set down his coffee and picked up the oak wand with the quartz crystal affixed to the end with silver wire, which he kept handy for just such occasions, and touched the tip of the crystal to the knife.
The crystal remained dark, indicating that whatever magic was stored in the blade was still dormant, ergo the knife's as yet unknown abilities were not the cause of the noise. That fact might have been more comforting if the grinding noise had not chosen that moment to start again. Jenkins whirled around and tried to pinpoint the source of the noise, but the acoustics of the Annex were tricky at best, especially in his workroom, and the insides of his ears chose that moment to pop, as if adjusting to a sudden change in the barometric pressure. As before, the sound only lasted a few brief seconds then stopped. After a short pause, it happened again, and Jenkins made another attempt to locate the sound. It sounded almost like someone was trying to force a heavy stone door open, pushing hard for a few seconds at a time then resting and then trying again, which was ridiculous because there were multiple layers of wards around the whole structure to keep out all but the most powerful of intruders and the only stone door which might make such a noise was--
Jenkins only had time to mutter a quick, "Oh, no," under his breath before stone ground against stone yet again, longer and more forcefully this time, as if whoever was trying to move the stone was really giving it their all, and then one of the metal framed sets of storage shelves in the back of the workroom fell over with a crash as the door to the long defunct Library Annex in Alexandria thrust forward and forced it over from behind. Fortunately, the shelf had only been holding books and boxes of papers rather than anything breakable, so while the mess would be a major chore to clean up, everything should be salvageable. That meant Jenkins's most pressing concern was currently the petite dark haired woman clutching a large pry bar in one hand like a walking stick and staring around her with wide eyes from her place in the newly opened doorway. Jenkins pushed his safety goggles away from his eyes and up onto his forehead so he could get a better look.
"Oops," she said in a small voice, as she watched the newly fallen papers swirl in the gusts of warm, dry Egyptian air which blew in through the passageway behind her. Even with a pry bar that long, Jenkins doubted that anyone her size would have been able to open that door on her own.
From somewhere around the corner of that passageway, a man could be heard shouting," Evy, get back here and give the place a chance to vent! You're the one who's always lecturing me about built up poison gasses in old tombs," even as the woman's gaze finally fell on Jenkins, causing her eyes to go even wider than before.
"It's alright, honey," she called back over her shoulder without taking her eyes off of Jenkins. "I think the air is fine." An Englishwoman paired with an American man, judging by their accents. That was interesting, if also irritating in the rudeness of their arrival.
"Every time I try to go in first you claim the worst of it is odorless," came the voice of the man. "You just always want to be the first one to see what's inside, don't you?"
"Of course not!" Jenkins raised a silent eyebrow at that, and the woman, presumably Evy, amended, "Well, maybe a little, sometimes, but sometimes there really is poison gas!"
"So how do you know that there isn't any this time?" the man called.
"Because there's already someone in here, and he seems to be breathing just fine," the woman shouted back to her unseen companion.
The single, "What?!?" that the woman received in response was more than a shout. It was a roar, and in an instant she was yanked out of sight and replaced by a broad shouldered man who would have seemed tall compared to anyone who was not of Jenkins's own great height. Like the woman, the man was holding a large pry bar, only he held his raised like a cudgel, and in his other hand he held a gun. Both of his hands appeared rock steady, and he looked like he was likely to be quite proficient in the use of both weapons. Another gust of hot wind down the passage swirled papers around him and ruffled his slightly shaggy dark auburn hair, making him look even fiercer than he would have without the overdramatic air currents. "What are you doing here?" the man growled.
An ordinary man might have been intimidated by such a display. Jenkins was merely irritated.
"What am I doing here?" Jenkins huffed, drawing himself up to his full height. "I work here. What are you doing here?"
"You work in a hidden tomb in desert outside of Alexandria?"
"No, I work in Oregon."
The man laughed. "I don't know how long you've been down here, buddy, but your geography is off by about a hemisphere. This isn't Oregon. This is northern Egypt."
"No, this," Jenkins said, pointing at the floor and speaking slowly as if to a small child, "is Oregon. That," he continued, pointing behind the man and Evy, who, apparently unwilling to miss any of this ridiculous confrontation, was now peeking out from around the man, despite his efforts to keep her behind him, "is Egypt. The doorway is the demarcation line, and it is usually kept sealed for a reason." As if to emphasize his point, another gust of wind came whipping into the workroom while he spoke, making an even bigger mess of the papers. It was going to take him at least a week to get this place cleaned up.
"Magic, connecting locations?" Evy asked eagerly, catching on faster than her companion.
"Yes." To be more specific, it was outdated magic which had long ago been replaced by new transfer points with better spells which did not turn doorways into wind tunnels whenever there was a pressure differential across their boundary, but Jenkins was in no mood to get into the particulars or answer any of the questions which volunteering that information would inevitably lead to, so he kept it to himself.
"May I?" Evy said, already inching around her still protective looking male companion and closer to the doorframe.
At Jenkins's resigned nod of confirmation, she raised a hand to the doorframe and gently traced her fingers along the hieroglyphics circling the threshold which had been obscured while the door was closed. She obviously was not just appreciating the craftsmanship of the pretty pictures as so many would. No, she was reading them. "And such a simple spell," she said. Then her smile widened and she asked, "Would these work when carved into wood, or do they need stone to anchor their power?"
"What?" the man interjected before Jenkins could answer her question. "No! No, Evy, you are not going to install these or anything like them in the house."
"It's my house, Rick, and I can install whatever I want. I installed you, didn't I?" Here, her loving grin took some of the sting from her words. It was enough to make Jenkins want to gag, but it seemed to soften the man's mood enough for him to lower his gun and pry bar. "Besides," Evy continued, "think of all the travel time we could save being able to go between London and Cairo whenever we wanted."
"Think of all the mummies that could get into the house whenever they wanted to," the man said in an almost sing-song voice.
"So we'll put a lock on the door," Evy sing-songed right back at him, still reading the markings around the door. And ugh, yeah, there was no way these two weren't married. Jenkins wished they'd just get a room already, specifically a room that was not his workroom.
"Locks don't even stop humans half the time, and they almost never stop mummies."
"True," Evy mused, "but there must be some kind of measures that could be taken..."
Jenkins looked askance at the couple even more than he already had been. He cleared his throat. "Are mummies really that much of a problem for you two?"
"Oh yeah," the man, Rick, said.
"Like you would not believe," Evy said at the same time.
"You don't happen to have any of 'em around here do you?" Rick added suspiciously, looking like he wanted to raise his gun again.
Not this again. Actually, there were quite a few mummies in the Library's main collections, and he could have them delivered to the Annex in less than fifteen minutes if need be, but mentioning that fact just then did not seem like the wisest course of action. Instead, Jenkins rolled his eyes in exasperation and spread his arms wide. "Does this look like a tomb?" he demanded.
"Yeah, it kinda does," Rick said. "Or it would if you cleaned up a little."
"Maybe a genizah," Evy said, looking around at all the scattered papers.
And that was the final straw for Jenkins. This was a place of knowledge and learning, not a tomb for either people or for words, even if very few things brought in here ever saw the light of day again. "Get out," he said.
"You heard me. I said, 'get out.'" Jenkins made a shooing motion. "I have work to do, and you're trespassing, and whatever you were looking for is clearly more likely to be in Egypt than in Oregon, so you can just go right back where you came from and leave me alone." He pulled his safety goggles back down over his eyes for emphasis.
"And close the door behind you!"
The couple looked like they wanted to protest further, but they caved under the pressure of his look of stern disapproval and implacable shooing. With only slight grumbles of protest, Rick and Evy went back to the passageway, took hold of the heavy iron ring that was on their side of the door, and began the slow, noisy process of dragging the stone door closed again.
Scrape. Rest. Scrape. Rest.
Trying not to step on anything important, Jenkins shuffled back through the fallen papers to the table, where he sat down and picked up his forgotten coffee.
Scrape. Rest. Scrape. Rest.
Without being able to use the pry bars to pull the door as they had when pushing, this was going to take Rick and Evy a while.
Scrape. Rest. Scrape. Rest.
Jenkins considered going over and pushing on the door from his side to help them close it faster, but they had gotten in here on their own, so they could darn well get out of here on their own, too. Jenkins picked up his cup of coffee and settled into a chair with his back deliberately to the retreating couple. And as soon as they were gone, he was going to seal that door with every ward he had access to and a few extra physical barricades as well. Now, if only those two would be quiet as they went.
Scrape. "You have to look on the bright side, Rick."
"And what would that be?" Scrape.
"Even if the Bembridge Scholars were wrong about the tomb location," a pause and a scrape, "we've gained some fascinating new information today." Scrape.
"Okay, first of all," a pause and a scrape, "I still think it's a really bad idea to carve any spells into the house," a pause and a scrape, "no matter how useful you think it might be." A pause and a scrape. "And if you put them in the house, then Alex is going to want some in his room at school," a pause and a scrape, "and who knows where it'll end. And second of all, Evy, you really need to stop relying," a pause and a scrape, "on those Bembridge Scholar guys for translations without checking them yourself." A pause and a scrape. "They always seem to end up being wrong about the important stuff." Scrape.
Evy laughed. "Fine, I'll concede your second point." A pause and a scrape. "In retrospect, it does seem a little silly to think," a pause and a scrape, "that there was any chance of us finding Galahad's Tomb in an offshoot of the Library of Alexandria."
It was all Jenkins could do to keep from spitting out his coffee in shock as he whirled around to face the couple and demand to know exactly where they had gotten their information, but it was too late. In a final scraping of rock, the heavy door sealed itself shut once more, leaving Jenkins alone with his artifacts, devices, and scattered papers. He slumped back into his chair and drained the contents of his mug in a few quick swallows, wishing it was something far stronger than coffee. There had been something about those two that set Jenkins on edge, even beyond the inconvenience of their sudden intrusion and the questions that they had unintentionally raised with their parting words. He needed to mentally replay the encounter twice before he could identify the reason, and once he did he wanted to kick himself for not realizing it sooner: the two were both old souls with more than a faint whiff of destiny surrounding them, which might explain their apparent recurring trouble with mummies. Jenkins shuddered at the thought, because he had already had more than enough encounters with destiny to last anyone's lifetime, even one as long as his. Yes, he was well to be rid of them.
Finally, Jenkins stood, straightened his shoulders, and set about the business of cleaning up, because the sooner everything was sorted, the sooner he could get back to work. Soon, he lost himself in the mundanity of sorting papers and fixing fallen shelves and was almost able to put the matter out of his mind completely.
* * *
"You better not have wrecked my workroom again," Jenkins growled. "How did you even get in here? I re-warded that door so that you could only open it with two keys, three kinds of incense, and a sacrificial chicken. And don't touch that!"
"Which door?" Rick said, once again placing himself between Jenkins and Evy, who was currently in the process of digging through the Library's card catalog. "Oh, you mean the one buried in Alexandria? Nah, this time we came from New York."
Jenkins faltered. "But that could only mean..."
"Yup," Rick confirmed. "Meet your new Librarian."
"Hello," Evy said, giving a quick, half cheery, half frazzled wave before returning to her task.
"And let me guess," Jenkins said, already beginning to feel resigned to his fate, "you're her Guardian."
"Of course I am," Rick said with a grin, "so it turns out we work here now too." Then he amended, "Well, not here here, at least not usually. Somebody" and here he looked over his shoulder to cast an accusing glance at Evy, "got a little overenthusiastic when, her very first day on the job, she found the aisle dedicated to funerary texts."
"I am a librarian," Evy interrupted without looking up. "It's my job to familiarize myself with the collection and keep it in good order."
"I thought the lady in charge said your job was to go out and collect weird magic stuff before it could hurt people," Rick said.
"Then I should have been given the title Head of Acquisitions, not Librarian!"
"As if you'd ever call yourself anything other than a librarian."
"And that's why you love-- Oh, look," Evy interrupted herself, holding up a card, "They have three different editions of the Necronomicon Ex Mortis: a Latin translation, a Greek translation, and Alhazred's original Arabic! I had been hoping for a chance to read those someday, and they might come in handy in our current predicament." She turned back to her digging, having seemingly failed to notice that the three books had appeared haloed with golden light on the nearby shelves as she listed them.
Rick gave Jenkins a 'what can you do?' shrug and said, "Anyway, long story short--"
"Too late," Jenkins muttered.
"Somebody," Rick continued, ignoring Jenkins's comment, "read more than a few of those funerary texts out loud when she shouldn't have, and we aren't sure which one did the trick, but something caused certain items to wake up and start attempting to disrupt the good order of the rest of the collection and our internal organs while they were at it."
"You're being overdramatic, dear," Evy said in sing-song tones.
"No, Evy, I'm really not," Rick said. "Anyway, after that, we needed to make a tactical retreat, and the door we picked took us here." Rick at least had the decency to look slightly embarrassed. Evy, still digging through the card catalog, looked thoroughly unrepentant.
Remembering what they had talked about during their previous encounter, Jenkins had the unhappy suspicion that he knew where Rick's story was going. "Let me guess," he said, "mummies?"
"Mummies," Rick and Evy answered in perfect unison.
"Oh joy," Jenkins sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "I'll go get one of our more portable copies of the Egyptian Book of the Dead and some weapons," he said. He really, really hated destiny. He could only console himself with the knowledge that the trouble which would inevitably follow these two wherever they went couldn't last more than a decade, because no Librarian had ever lasted longer than ten years before dying.
(Actually, Evy's tenure as Librarian turned out to be over three decades followed by a comfortable retirement, thanks to Rick finding ways to resurrect her every time that she died, but that is a story for some other day, probably one when Jenkins has had a lot more to drink and is feeling less crabby, so we'll take pity on him and let the matter drop for now.)