By Tim Pratt
Read by Stephen Eley (of Escape Pod)
First appeared in Twenty Epics (All Star Stories)
The Old Doctor welcomed Sigmund, twenty years old and tormented by visions, into the library at the Table’s headquarters. Shelves rose everywhere like battlements, the floors were old slate, and the lights were ancient crystal-dripping chandeliers, but the Old Doctor sat in a folding chair at a card table heaped with books.
“I expected, well, something _more_,” Sigmund said, thumping the rickety table with his hairy knuckles. “A big slab of mahogany or something, a table with authority.”
“We had a fine table once,” the Old Doctor said, eternally middle-aged and absently professorial. “But it was chopped up for firewood during a siege in the 1600s.” He tapped the side of his nose. “There’s a
lesson in that. No asset, human or material, is important compared to the continued existence of the organization itself.”
“But surely _you’re_ irreplaceable,” Sigmund said, awkward attempt at job security through flattery. The room shivered and blurred at the edges of his vision, but it had not changed much in recent decades, a few books moving here and there, piles of dust shifting across the floor.
The Old Doctor shook his head. “I am the living history of the Table, but if I died, a new doctor would be sent from the archives to take over operations, and though his approach might differ from mine, his
role would be the same — to protect the cup.”
“The cup,” Sigmund said, sensing the cusp of mysteries. “You mean the Holy Grail.”
Rated PG. Contains mysteries, religious and philosophical.
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