Locked Memories
rating: +24+x

In the vast interconnected system of the Hub, the Temple was a sole solitary structure; separate from all the rest of it, even if lying in the very center. Just like the Temple, its sole occupant stood sovereign, despite being at the center of many things: The Keymaster.

He was — and always had been — alone here for as long as he could remember. Despite this, many signs indicated otherwise, from the mementos in his temple to the artifacts seemingly dedicated to him. He struggled to make sense of what it all meant, and how it was related to him. In the very same breadth of time, he also had traveled all throughout the Backrooms, having explored practically every level. Although a powerful being, he could not help but feel that many treated him with a reverence far greater than what he believed he deserved. It was as if a much more impressive reputation preceded him.

However, arguably worse than the clutter in his mind was the clutter in his environment. The Temple was in a state of major disrepair, with the aforementioned items and artifacts strewn about. The Keymaster, left with nothing else to do at the current moment, resigned himself to finally cleaning up. Bit by bit, the discarded items were neatened and relocated to more fitting placements, gradually decreasing the microcosmic entropy of his surroundings.

In the process of his cleaning, the Keymaster eventually came across a book lying on the floor. Although most of the other objects had collected excessive dust, the book oddly had none at all. It was as if it had only been left there just then. Yet, it felt familiar. Curious, the Keymaster kneeled down to pick up the book and study it further. He did not find a title; rather, it was bound in leather with ornate patterning. Opening to the very first page, he then found an even more curious sight: an elegant signature, which read: Blanche

What this Blanche’s book was doing in his possession, he hadn’t a clue. However, there was an undeniable presence to the signature - a power behind it. Or, perhaps, it was the sense of deja-vu that it evoked in him. That name, Blanche…so familiar, yet so distant to him. As the Keymaster mused these thoughts, his finger absentmindedly traced along the signature. With that, everything around him suddenly changed before his very eyes. He found himself surrounded by old wooden bookshelves, stretching for as far as the eye could see. There were Light Guides floating around, wandering aimlessly around the books. The floor looked old, made of sturdy wood and covered in blue tapestries. In front of him was a desk, a lamp, a pile of books, and a woman wearing a white dress, seemingly absorbed in her reading. The Keymaster, barely having been able to gain his bearings in this new environment within such a short span of time, had even less time to register this strange woman. She had an elegant, almost “otherworldly” aura to her. Something about her appearance even nagged at a vague sense of familiarity in his subconscious, but he could not quite process it. The Keymaster could only faintly utter, “Erm…excuse me, ma’am?”

“Oh, goodness!” The woman stood up from her seat, placing her book on the now empty desk. “My apologies, seems I was a little too caught up in my reading… I am Blanche Von Haderach, keeper of the Cygnus Archive.” She stopped for a few seconds, staring at her new guest. “A pleasure to have you here.”

The Keymaster tilted his head. “Blanche…” He muttered to himself, slightly nodding in recognition towards the name. He pulled out the book and showed it to her. “I assume this must be yours, then? I had been cleaning my living space, and found it lying around. When I touched it, I suddenly found myself here in this…” he paused, aimlessly looking around at his surroundings. “…‘Cygnus Archive’, as you call it.” He then held the book out towards her, offering it. “Ah, and as for myself, well…everybody tends to call me the Keymaster. So that’s what I answer to.”

“I see,” she said, calmly taking the book. “I suppose you didn’t come here in search of something as most of my guests do… a nice change of pace, I suppose. Care for some tea, Mr. Keymaster?”

The Keymaster narrowed his eyes apprehensively towards Blanche. Being whisked away into a level he didn’t recognize, to then be offered tea by a stranger, was not his idea of how today would pan out. However, at the moment he was called “Mister”…well, it certainly was much more respect than most gave him. Although he had no need of food or drink, he decided to be respectful anyways. So, he sighed, relenting. “I suppose so, Lady Blanche.”

“Very well. Walk with me, will you?” Blanche pointed to a nearby hallway, smiling. “The tea room isn’t too far, and I could use some time away from my office. We could chat in the meantime, if you so wish.”

The Keymaster silently nodded. “Very well.” he echoed, as he began to walk alongside her. As the two beings treaded the halls of the great library, the audible sound of heavy boots falling upon the floorboards could be heard, accompanied by the faint jingling of keys on his key ring. Initially, the Keymaster had no intention of speaking. However, the soothing radiance emanated from the woman could not help but coax forth words from him, almost involuntarily. “So, Lady Blanche…how long have you owned this library? Well, if length of time even means anything to you.” Meanwhile, on the inside, the Keymaster was having an internal argument. Stop making small talk! She’s untrustworthy! What are you doing, what happened to your composure?!

“Well…” The lady tapped her cheek with her index a few times, thinking. “It has been a very long time, that’s for certain…” She placed the book he gave her in a nearby shelf before turning to her guest again. “I’m afraid I may have lost track. Though I can certainly say it has been quite a lovely experience. It does require a lot of patience - these books won’t organize themselves, after all - but patience always has been one of my strengths.” She paused for a bit, smiling again. “What about yourself, Mr. Keymaster? What do you do for a living?”

The Keymaster nodded along to Blanche’s answer. As he was called “Mister” for the second time, he could not help but crack a grin from behind his collar and stifle a chuckle for the briefest of milliseconds. You idiot! Now she will never respect you! “Well, as for myself, it’s rather self-explanatory. I hold the key to every domain of this dimension. I guide lost travelers to their destinations, providing keys to them. And I serve as a guardian of the Crossroads, which for some reason humans like to call ‘The Hub’. Such odd creatures…” he murmured, shaking his head.

“My, how intriguing… I think I may have read about you somewhere. The key to every domain, you say? Must be a very handy thing to have, I assume.” She quietly chuckled a bit, noticing the grin on her guest’s face. “Humans seem to have an innate need to name and categorize things. It seems to help them understand the world around them, even if many times the categorization is arbitrary and flawed. I find such curiosity, such desire to learn and know more, to be very admirable.” She paused, clasping her hands. “I’m glad to hear they can find a little guidance, should they cross your path.”

The Keymaster nodded in agreement. “I suppose that I am glad, too. I do not really know why and how I do it. It is just this…compulsion I feel.” He concluded, as they reached the tea room.

"Purpose is a weird little thing, isn't it?" Blanche quietly pulled a chair for her guest. "Take a seat, dear. Tea will be ready in an instant. Would you like something to eat?"

The Keymaster took a seat at the table, and looked to Blanche. “I suppose so.” He answered her question.

“Lovely! I have prepared some apple pie, as a bit of a snack, I suppose. It isn’t quite the time for a full meal just yet, and I doubt spaghetti would go well with jasmine tea….” The lady takes her seat, taking a sip from her teacup. “You need not be shy, have yourself a bite!” She points to a plate in front of the Keymaster.

The Keymaster slowly looked down at the plate in front of him. Well, it looked appetizing enough, he supposed. He cut a piece, and raised the fork towards his mouth. However, he suddenly stopped mid-motion, as Blanche’s words finally fully registered within his mind. “Wait, what do you mean about spaghetti?” He asked her.

"Hm? Is something the matter, dear?" Blanche put her teacup down, staring at the Keymaster and smiling, a slight confusion in her face.

“It’s just…why spaghetti?” The Keymaster slowly said, an apprehensive confusion creeping in on him.

“Well… is it not your favorite dish? I believe we talked before this in my chatroom, though it took me quite a bit to recognize you were the person behind the screen…”

The Keymaster did a double-take. Chatroom? What chatroom? What even was that? A room for the sole purpose of “chatting”? How bizarre! But more pressing matters took priority in his mind at that moment. He narrowed his eyes at Blanche, standing up from the chair. “Who are you, really? Why can’t I remember you?! You must have done something to me!” He spat, jabbing an accusatory finger towards her.

Blanche placed a hand on her chest, a shocked expression in her face. “I- I’m not quite sure I follow…”

The Keymaster took a second to read the room. He looked about himself, and then the shocked expression on Blanche’s face. Suddenly, he could not help but feel bad for having snapped, even though he hated it. He sighed in frustration, slumping back into his seat. “I’m…sorry.” He reluctantly grumbled, looking down in his lap. “My anger isn’t necessarily towards you. This has been happening to me for years now. Everyone else seems to remember that which I cannot…including even things that I myself have supposedly done.”

“How odd…” Blanche seemed concerned. “Memory loss… rather worrying, truth be told.” She took a sip of tea, deep in thought.

The Keymaster rested a hand on his face. “I just wish I could find a way to fix this. But I haven’t found any yet. I’m worried that I may be cursed to exist like this forevermore…” he sighed, a faint hint of despair seeping through his words.

“All in due time, dear. I’m sure there’s a solution to be found somewhere. In fact…” Suddenly, a book appears in her hands. “It might be somewhere in these shelves.”

The Keymaster looked about at the vast selection of tomes housed within the library. “There’s…so many. It’s so overwhelming. Where do I even start?”

“Oh, you need not worry, dear. I’ll be scouring the depths of this library while we have our tea.” She smiles, wiping a few crumbs of pie off the corner of her mouth with a napkin.

At that point, The Keymaster realized that he hadn’t yet even drank the tea. Skeptically, he raised the cup to his mouth, and sipped from it. He was pleasantly surprised to find that he in fact enjoyed the taste, and gave a nod of approval towards Blanche.

“I wouldn’t be a good host if I served my guests subpar tea, now would I?” She chuckled quietly, taking another sip of tea. “I do pride myself in the tea I make. I’ve had many eternities to practice, after all." She was silent for a moment, staring for a few instants at her reflection in the tea before speaking again. "I must say, compared to most of my guests, you do seem to excel at keeping calm. I can't blame humans for being surprised when the occasional comment on my age or my library slips out, though." She smiles for a bit, still holding her teacup. "After all, this realm feels so strange to me, I don't think I can imagine what it must be like for them…"

The Keymaster shrugged. “Well, I’ve traveled most of this realm already. By now, I’ve practically seen it all. It takes much to surprise me.” He commented.

"Ah, a well traveled man! In a sense, I envy you. I'd love to go out and explore this world myself and see what my guests speak of… but alas, I cannot leave this place…" There was a faint sadness in Blanche's tone, but it quickly faded away.

“There are indeed many beautiful, fantastical sights to behold. However, after seeing so many, for so long, it all eventually becomes so…monotonous.” The Keymaster reflected, staring off in the distance before looking back towards Blanche, changing the subject back to the matter at hand. “The only thing that keeps throwing me off is, as I mentioned earlier, the gaps in my memory.”

"Gaps, you say… so are there blank areas in your memory? Or do you not remember anything past a certain point?" Blanche's curious gaze met the Keymaster's eyes.

“I would say the latter. I have always had a general sense of my identity and purpose…but recall nothing prior to 8 years ago.”

Blanche thought for a few seconds. "What is your earliest memory?"

The Keymaster reflected on his memories, before formulating an answer. “…I woke up in the Crossroads, and I felt disoriented and confused. The year was 2014 in human time.”

"Odd… could you be a numen of some kind?" Blanche flipped through a book while talking, seemingly searching for something in the pages.

“-A what?” asked The Keymaster, looking at Blanche in confusion.

"A numen is, as humans define it, the entity presiding over a thing or location. I wonder if you fit the definition." She took another sip of tea.

“Well, the Crossroads have always felt like home to me… especially its temple. I feel as if my nature is intertwined with it. Yet…” he paused, thinking for a moment. “I know that the location had already existed long before my first memory. My nature therefore isn’t dependent on its own.”

"A temple?" Blanche put her book down, intrigued. "I don't recall ever hearing about such a thing."

“Yes…it’s in the center of the Crossroads. Very well-hidden. Not many know of it, so I do not blame you,” replied the Keymaster.

Blanche scribbled down a few notes in a second book. “Could you tell me more about it?”

The Keymaster shrugged. “Well, there is a headless marble statue there with Greek letters inscribed. And a bunch of large thrones, as if meant for beings of similar…status to myself.”

“I see… how intriguing!” Blanche finishes writing down her notes, and the book promptly vanishes. “If there is a temple, then the numen hypothesis may not be as far-fetched as I had thought.”

“Perhaps…” The Keymaster said, scratching at his collar over the area that his chin would be. “But…I don’t know, something feels missing.”

She takes another sip of tea. “How so? If you can put your finger on it, that is.”

The Keymaster thought for a moment. “I know I had a life before my memories. There’s evidence of it. Beings who I’ve never met claim to know me.”

“Perhaps your mind crumbled under the weight of your own memories? I’ve read tales of beings who lived lives too long to remember…”

The Keymaster winced at this thought. “That sounds incredibly disturbing…” he said, briefly reflecting before looking back towards Blanche. “Is it weird for me to say that I feel like I know you from somewhere? I do not remember you, and yet…everything feels familiar.”

“Such feelings of deja vu are quite common in this realm,” she replied, “or so I hear from my guests. I suppose us so-called ‘Entities’ aren’t immune to it either… you do seem vaguely familiar to me, too. You don't seem to physically or psychologically resemble any of the people who have visited me, yet there's… a certain… goodness, I can't quite put my finger on it."

“Hmm…I can’t help but feel we are beginning to tread in circles.” The Keymaster said with a frustrated sigh as he stood up. He paced back and forth in a small circuit, thinking to himself. “…You said the issue can only be fixed once the root cause has been identified, correct?” He asked her.

Blanche leafed through another book. “I'm not sure if I'll be able to fix it myself, but I'll likely be able to point towards a possible solution, yes.” She paused, before speaking again. “Well… there's still one place I've yet to search in.” Blanche got up from her seat, taking a few steps towards the Keymaster, phasing undisturbed through the table. She pointed to his head. “In there. Of course, you'd have to allow me to do so.”

The Keymaster sighed. “Hmm…well…how exactly would you go about doing so?”

“Well, I can read any book in my library," she says, smiling, "and your memory's pages are no exception.”

“That sounds rather…invasive.” The Keymaster murmured to himself, looking down at the floor as he contemplated his options.

“Hence why I always ask my guests for permission beforehand." replied Blanche.

Despite his reservations, the Keymaster could not help but feel that Blanche was someone worthy of his trust. So, he chose to hear her out more. “…how exactly would the process work?”

"I will be delving into your thoughts for a few moments. Of course, I’ll be avoiding anything not relevant to the matter at hand.” She paused, smiling. "The privacy of my guests is sacred to me."

The Keymaster nodded. “Very well.” He said, sitting down in a chair. “Before you begin, I’ll offer a fair warning that it may be messy in there.”

“This should be quick. I need only test a hypothesis…” Blanche placed her index finger on the Keymaster’s forehead and closed her eyes for a few seconds. “My apologies if this stings a little…”

“What do you mean sti-” The Keymaster began to say, before his body suddenly stiffened from a sensation that jolted through him, and his eyes rolled back.

Blanche found herself elsewhere. No longer did she reside in the library; she was instead in the mindscape of the Keymaster. She sifted through his memorial essence as it ran through her fingers like water, until eventually, she came upon a particular scene along the stream of consciousness. She stood in the Temple, which appeared in a much newer and furbished state. Burning torches lined the halls, casting light upon the sacred rites performed within these walls. The circular rows of thrones all remained vacant, except for one in the center; upon which sat the Keymaster, appearing strikingly different from his current form. His figure was much larger, more dominant, and commanding of respect. His hair was black and neater, and his eyes were a deep, piercing blue. The collar around his face was open, revealing a lower face with sharply defined features. A large group of the Lost was gathered before the Keymaster - whom they referred to as “The Gatekeeper” - seeming to conduct worship and offerings to him. They did this in hopes of receiving something from him in return; likely a level key, or more rarely an "unlocking" of their own power/potential. As one member stepped forth, he fell to his knees and humbly lifted a bowl of liquid before the deity. The Gatekeeper took the bowl, although shooting a subtle glare of disapproval for the offering not seeming to be enough to appease him. He viciously gulped down the liquid, not even seeming to have taken the time to taste it. All the while, the worshipper stared intently. Just as the Gatekeeper finished his gluttonous consumption of the liquid, tossing aside the bowl and preparing to call forth the next person, he suddenly cried out in pain. He fell from the throne and onto his knees with a heavy thud which rocked the room, retching and groaning. The Gatekeeper clutched onto his heart, realizing the awful truth that he had been poisoned. He looked up at the one responsible for it, using the last remaining moments of his life to glare at him with all the fury he could muster before collapsing.

Blanche moved through the scene, seemingly unnoticed. She observed her surroundings, gazing at the architecture and the people within the Temple. She had read about the time when the Lost turned on their gods, and she remembered a few hostile visitors from that time all too well. As painful as the scene was, it was not quite what she was looking for. Blanche began to move onwards, hovering ever so slightly over the floor.

“Argh, what a waste.” A voice suddenly said from behind her. It was deep, powerful and ancient, as if emanating from the depths of the void itself. It commanded attention and respect, yet was layered with bitterness all the same. As Blanche turned around, the source of the ominous voice made itself known. A large dark figure materialized before the fallen corpse of the Gatekeeper. It was enshrouded in shadowy robes of black and gold, crowned with an obsidian-black geometrical head in the form of a floating upside-down pyramid. Several tentacles lashed out from all sides of its body in place of standard limbs. The tendrils ensnared the corpse of the Gatekeeper, as the being began to perform some sort of work on it whilst mumbling to itself in frustration. Suddenly, the being’s head turned 180 degrees to face Blanche, followed by the rest of its form. “Ah, greetings, Azel'kyra. It has certainly been forever…” Kei’ boomed, sensing her presence.

Blanche flinched, frozen in place. For an instant, she could feel her thoughts spiral, memories resurfacing, but she quickly regained her composure, and after a moment, she faced the figure, smiling. “I go by Blanche these days. A pleasure to see you again, though I certainly hadn’t expected to find you here, of all places…”

Right…” Kei’ replied, almost mockingly. “So, you're surprised by my presence? I could perhaps echo the same sentiment towards the fact that you’re watching me in this moment from elsewhere — or more fittingly, elsewhen. Pray tell, why so invasive in my business?”

“…Seems that all the time that has passed since we last crossed paths wasn’t enough for your manners to improve,” she said, seemingly disappointed. “One of your vessels paid me a visit. I’m here of their own will.”

Kei’ growled lowly upon learning this, its demeanor suddenly shifting. “Ah yes, I assume this one here,” it said, dropping the body without care and allowing it to thud on the ground. “Of course, I knew he would inevitably grow curious. But answer me this: do you really believe he can handle the full truth? Would he even want to know?” It asked.

"I don't understand. You were the creator, correct?" Blanche adjusted one of her opera gloves. "Shouldn't you already know the answer?"

Kei’ scoffed. “In my humble opinion,” it sarcastically said, “he cannot. At least not yet.” Kei’ seemed to be peering elsewhere now, likely checking in on another vessel in a different universe or timeline. “If there is one thing that I admittedly envy abut you, it is your strong connection to your avatars. You and them are practically one and the same in consciousness. I, unfortunately, lack such a luxury. Yet these Keymasters throughout every reality serve as the eyes and ears through which I enact my will. If this Keymaster were to know such, he would not accept it - or if he did, he would attempt to rebel.”

"Is that really such a great inconvenience to you? You'll just reset this vessel, as you've always done." She pauses. "Come to think of it, is this the reason behind my guest's memory wipes? It is rather empty here…"

Kei’ gave a low chuckle. “Ah, so you have caught me red-tentacled…” it said, ensnaring the remains of the Gatekeeper once again. The tendrils surgically cut into the body, separating flesh from bone from fabric in precise motions. “You see, I have come to a realization on the reason most of my vessels fail, why there is a disconnect between they and I. They lack something which I cannot provide - a modest, mortal soul. And so, I have made some modifications…” as Kei’ finished speaking, the rest of the Gatekeeper’s remains disappeared, and now left in their place was the cloak, which rose up on its own accord, acting intelligently. The members of the Lost reacted with shock, not seeing Blanche or Kei’ but rather the living cloak. It suddenly lurched towards one of the members, forcefully wrapping around him even as he screamed and struggled. The screams were shortly muffled by the collar which closed around the lower half of his face. Soon enough, he appeared not unlike the Keymaster currently did, though with differences in the color of hair, skin and eyes. “The cloak finds the most immediately suitable host. If a more convenient one is found, or the symbiosis is lost, the cloak will reject and kill its wearer before bonding with a new one - until it finds the most perfect wearer to bear the title of Keymaster.”

Blanche gazed in shock at the scene, letting out a small gasp. "How many have you killed like this?"

Kei’ stood in silence, thinking for a moment. “Currently, this one is the first one, but who is to say there won’t be more past this moment?”

"Stop this." Blanche's tone seemed much more serious. "The path you thread is lined in pointless sacrifice. There must be another way."

“I think we both know that I won’t stop. Why else does the Keymaster appear different from the one in your library?”

"Why must you take everything from them?" Blanche raised her voice a little. "They already live for so little time, why? Why take such a precious, ephemeral thing away?"

“Oh, but don’t you understand? I’m giving them everything! The power of a God right at their fingertips, if only they can master it! They should be grateful for the opportunity, if anything.”

"Opportunity at what cost?" Blanche walked over to the new Keymaster, staring at him. "Do you realize just how much was taken from him? You take away everything they could ever be under the guise of opportunity? As if it was a blessing to be nothing more than a puppet?"

“Why, of course it is!” Kei’ proclaimed. “Mortals are…” it paused, laughing briefly. “-well, mortals. Simple creatures, really. I give them power infinitely beyond what they could ever hope to achieve, in exchange for simply allowing me to work through them.” Kei’ moved closer to Blanche, its tentacles pointed offensively towards her. “Now, if I did not know any better, it almost sounds as if you are siding against me…” it said confrontationally.

Blanche remained as calm as ever. "I believe you are well aware of my stance on the value of life, are you not? We have the luxury of being unbothered by death. We should not bring an early end to others' stories, for their tales are not ours to write."

“You see, that is the difference between you and I. You are afraid of power; I embrace it.” Kei’ paced back and forth throughout the scene. “Now, ‘Blanche’, it would be in your best interest to not tell the Keymaster of this little interaction here. Otherwise, he will inevitably challenge me. And then, when I destroy him, his blood will be on your hands.”

"Seems your penchant for bold assumptions has not dwindled at all. Not that it bothers me as much as the lack of manners." Blanche's voice seemed to come from everywhere, as if it had multiplied, echoing through the Crossroads. "Do not mistake my kindness for weakness, nor my pacifism for fear." For only a split second, the memory's scenario had vanished, replaced by a starry space and a myriad of eyes, all set on Kei’, and just as quickly, it all returned to normalcy, as Blanche quietly spoke. "You may not know compassion, but in my presence, you will know respect."

Kei’ was briefly taken aback, its stoic composure faltering ever so slightly. Like Blanche, memories of a time beyond time resurfaced in its mind. Then, it grinned and chuckled heartily, leaning back. “Ah, there it is! I was wondering if you were truly in there, or if you had grown complacent with that puppet you call 'Blanche'. I suppose I underestimated you.” It remarked. “Even so, you still seem to have difficulty comprehending the gravity of what I am promising. If you are still committed to this course of action, know that it is a declaration of war - the consequences of which will be grave indeed.”

"I wish not for conflict, yet I will not keep him in the dark. He can learn of his origins and still play his role. He can confront you without challenging you. There's no need for violence here."

Kei’s tendrils curled inwards tensely, just as a human would clench their knuckles and grit their teeth. “And just how can you guarantee that?”

"Well, this latest puppet of yours has been very polite. I'm confident he'll listen to my words." Blanche smiled, clasping her hands together.

Kei’ grumbled to itself, the pyramid head rotating in all sorts of directions. Finally, it seemed to relent, albeit reluctantly. “… Begone now.”

"…seems the master still has much to learn," she said, letting out a small sigh. "Farewell, Kei’. Do take care, will you?"

“I will try…however much it pains me.” It mumbled.

Suddenly, the Keymaster jolted awake, coughing and sputtering.

"Oh, goodness… here," Blanche said, handing her guest his cup of tea, "have yourself a sip."

The Keymaster gratefully took the cup, and did not bother hiding how much he enjoyed the tea as he gulped it down. “Thanks…” he gasped, disoriented. “What happened?”

"All in due time, dear. It'd be best for you to settle down a bit first." Blanche crouched in front of the Keymaster, giving him a concerned look.

The Keymaster sighed, knowing that expression didn’t bode well. “I’m assuming things became quite messy for you, didn’t they?”

"You need not worry about me, dear. I emerged unscathed." She smiled, tucking some hair behind her ear."

“Good, good.” The Keymaster nodded, reacclimating to his senses.

“How do you feel? Dizzy? Tired? I may have been a bit too abrupt with my exit… my apologies.”

The Keymaster groaned, massaging the temples of his forehead. “I…could be better, but I’ll be fine.”

“Breathe.” Blanche shot another concerned glare at the Keymaster. “Would you like some more tea?”

The Keymaster weakly nodded. “If you wouldn’t mind, I would like that.” He murmured.

Without a sound or motion, the Keymaster’s teacup was full once again. “There you go, dear.”

Just as quickly, the cup was once again empty. “I do not usually appear this needy. I hope you don’t see me as lesser in this state.” He admitted, feeling embarrassed.

“Of course not, my dear. The well-being of my guests is a priority of mine. If you need anything else, do not hesitate to let me know.” She paused for a bit. “Besides, you did undergo a rather unusual event.” Blanche’s tone still showed her concern… and a faint hint of sadness.

If there was one skill which the Keymaster had learned in his time protecting wanderers, it was empathy - as ironic as that may seem. He thus knew how Blanche felt at this moment. “You needn’t worry about me. I can hold my own just fine. And whatever it was that you did for me, I am truly grateful for it.” He said to her.

“I fear that the news I have for you may be tough to swallow, my dear…” Blanche took a sip of tea. "Though you’re still a tad too agitated. Firstly, though, I’m a little curious about something…” she stared at the ring on the Keymaster’s hip. “Do you think one of those keys of yours would…work for me? Is it regular teleportation? Or some other means of transport?”

“Well, the keys on my ring directly teleport me to their location. As for the rest, they must be manually inserted into their respective door.”

“Ah. I’m afraid they wouldn’t quite work for me, then…” Blanche stopped staring at the keys, taking another sip of tea. “I don’t mind staying here at my archive a little longer, so it isn’t much of an issue.”

The Keymaster nodded. “I see. Well, I am sure you will find what you seek eventually.”

“Indeed…” Blanche sighed. “Shall we, then?”

The Keymaster nodded. “Indeed, I am ready.”

“I met someone else while in there. Someone who I hadn’t seen in quite some time…" She pauses for a bit, her eyes drifting to the floor for an instant. "Does the name 'Kei’' ring a bell to you?”

The Keymaster thought long and hard. Although the name felt familiar, he knew deep down that he had never directly met any such being. He shook his head towards Blanche. “Only vaguely. I cannot say I ever knew such a being.”

“Well… Kei’ is the being responsible for your creation. In his own words, you are his eyes and ears in this realm.”

The Keymaster gave a sigh of disbelief. “So…I’m nothing more than a puppet…” he concluded, staring blankly.

“…yes. In a sense. You were once a regular human, who fell prey to that strange cloak of yours. It moves from host to host, a symbiotic being in search of the most fitting host… and discarding those it deems insufficient.”

The Keymaster began to feel disoriented. He looked down at his hands and began to disassociate. Were they his hands, or…his hands? For that matter, the same held true for the rest of himself. What belonged to who? He attempted to stand up, but immediately became uneasy and stumbled about, nearly collapsing onto the table as he fell back into his seat.

"It's best you stay seated, my dear. This is a lot to take in, after all. Do know, however, that Kei’ is not literally pulling the strings on you. Quite frankly, I don't quite understand what he is doing, but you do have free will. You came here of your own accord."

The Keymaster began drawing ragged breaths, clutching onto his head as he slightly rocked forth. “I…what even am I?! A god? A human? I don’t know, I-”

"I find it best not to try and categorize oneself so quickly, but I suppose you'd be somewhere in-between. Perhaps something akin to the demigods of ancient myth? That can wait, however." Blanche stands up. The table they just had tea on vanished, and she walked up to her guest, pointing to him with her palm facing upwards. With a small motion, she pointed upwards, and the Keymaster was raised from his seat, standing in place in front of her. "My apologies if this seems rather sudden, but I believe this could be of use to you." With those words, she wrapped her arms around his chest, pulling him into her warm embrace.

The Keymaster tried to say something, but his words were caught in his throat. Nobody in his memory, even those which he had lost, had ever embraced him so purely and unconditionally. Never offered him such loving support. It stirred up many feelings within him. It was as if all the layers of his being were peeled away, exposing the very human aspect of himself. One which, like all humans, craved love and affection. It was with this that the Keymaster, one of the mightiest entities in the Backrooms, surrendered to the embrace of Blanche Von Haderach. His shoulders lightly trembled as he pulled her in closer, reciprocating the gesture.

"I know not who you are. I do know, however, that I shouldn't be the one to provide you with an answer to that," she said, whispering. "Who you once were isn't entirely gone. Who you are now still has plenty of room to develop, and who you will be, my dear, is entirely up to you. My protégé likes to quote this every so often: There is no fate but what we make. Now, you don't have to rush out of here in search of an answer. You have plenty of time to figure it out."

The Keymaster slowly withdrew from the hug, stepping back slightly. It was then that he looked upon Blanche with a level of recognition far greater than what he had initially expressed. “Blanche?” He asked, not in the way of meeting a stranger, but rather an old friend. He had a more lucid awareness of everything around him, as he gazed about the library with familiar eyes. “I…I remember you now. I remember this place.” He looked back to her. “I regarded you as a sister. I used to come here to read a certain book that I adored. And since you knew I loved it so much, you let me keep it! And that’s why I had that book!” He exclaimed, all the memories of her now flooding back as he briefly took on an animated demeanor. Then, however, he bristled at a certain memory. “But…but the last time I saw you, I hadn’t exactly left you on the best of terms. I…said very hurtful things.” He slowly bowed his head in remorse.

"You need not feel sorry, dear. It is not abnormal for a guest of mine to lose their temper and say things they don't truly mean." Blanche smiled. "What will you do now, Keymaster?"

“I’m…not sure. I think I’ll return to my home, take some time to reflect. All of this information is much to digest.” Slowly, he looked back at the book he gave her. “On second thought, may I actually hold onto that? It could be useful if I ever wish to return here.”

Blanche grabbed the book with both hands, one on each side, and began pulling. The book seemed to stretch, deforming like clay, and with one final movement, it split into two identical copies. She handed one to the Keymaster. "Here you go, dear. You may visit whenever you please. If you plan on consulting Kei’ about all this… please do so with the utmost care. In fact, it could be a good idea to come visit again before you do. My relationship with him is a little strained, and I'm unsure of how he'd react to you… if history serves right, he'll wipe your memory clean again and start anew."

The Keymaster nodded. “Understood.” He said as he gratefully took the book. With that, he grabbed a key from his key ring, using it to open a portal to the Temple in the Crossroads. Blanche was briefly granted a rare physical glimpse into a realm beyond her own, as the Keymaster began to step through. Halfway through crossing over, he slowly turned back to Blanche, waving towards her. “Thank you, for everything.” He said, before fully crossing the threshold as it closed.

"Farewell, Keymaster. Do take care." Blanche returned to her seat at her desk, writing down on an empty tome.

The Keymaster returned to his “home” for lack of a better term, glad to see the familiar if bland sights. He sighed as he sat upon the marble throne. Reflecting on what had happened, he realized that the memories of Blanche that he had uncovered were but breadcrumbs, leading to more memories that still remained buried. He had impressions of many other beings besides Blanche that he knew. A group, in fact. Yet those impressions were very fuzzy. He knew that there was more work to be done in order to find these individuals and unlocks those other memories…but that was for another day.

His attention slowly turned to the book he had taken with him. With nothing better to do, he figured that he might as well read it, and so he grabbed the book, opening it up, glancing at the first line.

"Once upon a time…"

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