Rated PG. Contains mysteries, religious and philosophical.
Cup and Table
by Tim Pratt
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.”
About the Author
Tim Pratt is the author of more than 20 novels, most recently the Axiom space opera trilogy. His multiverse adventure novel Doors of Sleep, beginning a new series, is out in January 2021. He’s a Hugo Award winner for short fiction, and has been a finalist for Nebula, World Fantasy, Sturgeon, Mythopoeic, Stoker, and other awards. He tweets incessantly (@timpratt) and publishes a new story every month for patrons at www.patreon.com/timpratt.
About the Narrator
Serah Eley is a software developer and writer who once, under the name Steve Eley, started a little science fiction podcast called Escape Pod. You might have heard of it. She was the original founder of Escape Artists, our parent company, before retiring from podcasting in 2010. She’s spent much of the past ten years exploring the frontier territories of multiple-identity and gender, and is just starting to write home about what she’s found. You can follow her exploits at seraheley.com.