From an anonymous F. to Christopher Illopoly, this letter is remarkable for a number of reasons.
First, that it explains with more clarity than usual the purpose and abilities of the Librarian of Hush House.
Second, that the ‘secrets of inks’ are discussed with the candour of assured destruction.
Third, that the letter was evidently not destroyed, leaving one to wonder what that meant for F., Christopher, and the unwelcome attentions of the ‘Fine-Takers’.
But we cannot speculate with any accuracy. There are many Histories, and in each one, always a sea and a tide.
‘The Sweet Bones’, Brancrug
June 28th, 1929
My dear Christopher,
I am so sorry. I would very much like to help, but I deeply regret that I cannot – and I’m afraid in any case that you’ve been terribly misled. The matter is a complex one, but I know how your heart must ache, so I wanted to begin by making it clear at once that I cannot do what you ask of me. Now I will explain why.
I know the ink that you describe. It exists. I shouldn’t tell you even that, and for the sake of our friendship I ask you to burn this letter after reading. The ink is called here encaustum terminale and it is a great treasure of the House. Its making is a closely guarded secret. Its use by any but the Librarian is punished without mercy. When we become aware of delinquencies or abuse, we despatch the Fine-Takers in their ultimate mode. Even I could not frivolously lay hands upon a sample without suffering the severest consequences.
But more importantly, the encaustum is not what you have come to believe. Yes, it is used to curate the Histories, which is why it is so carefully guarded. But it has no power in itself. It cannot change the past. I do not think it is even possible to change the past, not in the sense you mean.
There are many Histories, as you yourself have written. The Hours of the Mansus determine what events are considered a History, and which Histories are braided into the future – the future in which you will read (and burn!) this letter.
But the Hours are not all-knowing, nor infallible. I do not think it is even accurate to call them gods, although we so often revert to that convention. (I do not believe – and for this I am grateful – that there are such things as gods.) They do not take direction, but they have been known to take advice.
You may know that Hush House lies under the hand of certain Hours. I have no wish to draw their attention, so I will not name them, but they are most of them those who seek to preserve the world as it is. In our smaller way, that is also the goal of our Curia. The Librarian of the House is provided with texts that qualify as Material, the unintersticed elements of proto-History, and they make their curations and determinations upon it. When they make those curations and determinations in the encaustum terminale, the Hours take note, and they value the Librarian’s opinion… if the Librarian is of sufficient significance.
So that is all the encaustum can do. When it is used the right way by the right person in the right circumstances, it can draw the attention of the Hours. And that is a very considerable thing! But it is not something you could use, and if it were, it would not have the effect you desire.
I am sorry, my friend. She is lost to you. I can offer you only this slender comfort – one that you love has that for which she so dearly wished, and you had your reasons not to follow, and those reasons, I think, are very noble. You cannot change the choices you have made. None of us can. But I earnestly believe that you both made choices you should not regret. The sea does not regret the tide, and after the tide withdraws, something always remains, which we call memory.
In very deep affection,
P.S. I know I can be an old bore, but for a third time, I must beg you to burn this letter.