May. 27th, 2016

barnabas_truman: (army)
The other day I brought up the notion of a crossover fanfic bringing together Mary Poppins, Ms. Frizzle (of the Magic School Bus books), and Carmen Sandiego (monument-stealing criminal mastermind from a series of old geography edutainment computer games), presumably as they pull off some sort of absurdly elaborate heist. A friend suggested time-traveling to the glory days of the Library of Alexandria to save a bunch of the scrolls that have been lost to history. Here's what I ended up with an hour or two later...

-----

"Can I help you find something?" asked the old librarian.

"We're looking for, er, the big fire that's about to destroy the library," said Ms. Frizzle with a bit of uncertainty.

"Fire? What fire?"

"My understanding is that the Roman army set the city on fire during a war and the flames spread to the library, burning everything."

"Romans?" interrupted Carmen; "I recall being told that the scrolls were destroyed by a mob of violent and fanatical Christians who thought they were heretical."

"Pish-posh," said Mary. "I have always read that the scrolls were used as firewood by decadent and uncaring Muslims."

"That's not entirely true," said the librarian slowly. "Yes, Caesar's army set fire to the city, and many buildings were burned, but the librarians were able to keep the flames away from most of the scroll-houses. Yes, Pope Theophilus decreed that the pagan temples were to be destroyed, and that included the main museum itself, but we were storing most of the scrolls in outbuildings by that time. Yes, Amr ibn al-As conquered all of Egypt, but the rumors of his using scrolls as firewood were propaganda spread by his opponents. Kings and conquerers come and go but we librarians make do."

"Then where are the scrolls?" asked Carmen.

The librarian gestured towards a dark doorway at the back of the room. The three travelers rushed to it, only to find a large unfurnished storeroom, dimly lit by small high windows. Piled in the middle was a colossal heap of dusty scrolls.

Mary cautiously reached for one and gingerly picked it up. It crumbled to dust in her fingers.

The three stood in silence for a while, looking over what was once the knowledge of the western world.

"What has happened to this place?" asked Ms. Frizzle as they returned solemnly to the front room.

"We've got no shelves," said the librarian sadly. "We've got no scribes. We've got no money too. The apathy of the people and the abandonment of the government have accomplished what generations of conquest could not. No library can survive long without support."

-----

(apologies to Pratchett for shamelessly plagiarizing his "kings and lords come and go" and "we've got no ships, we've got no men, we've got no money too" lines)

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