THE PHANTOM OF THE LIBRARY
A Tribute to Lunacy


As most of you know, Lunacy has announced that she is going into semi-retirement after years of tireless effort in the Xenaverse. Her reviews have been a beacon in an ocean of fanfic, providing an enormous service to readers. Her humour and gentle encouragement have inspired many bards. She’s read everything and she can find anything. She proves that librarians are the original search engines. She has become as much a loved fixture in the online community as the best of those she reviews. I look forward to the occasional reviews still to come and hope that she will long continue to grace us with her wit and wisdom. Thanks, Lunacy.

Some months ago, the impish Lunacy played a trick on a widely-read bard, creating a fake URL for the bard’s site. This resulted in the literary payback of Lunacy becoming a very strange character in the widely-read bard’s latest story. (A previous prank had landed her the tasty role of Gabrielle’s nutbread.) This tribute further examines the latest lunatic character, who has given more to the Xenaverse than we will ever completely know. 5/24/99

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We’ve all heard tales of restless spirits still in our midst. Ghost stories, urban legends, campfire tales to scare and entertain. They always start out with, “This is a true story, honest. It happened to a friend of mine.” Some are tales of gore and fear, some of a helping hand from the most unlikely of sources. They are shrouded in mystery, their lessons often shunned because of religious teachings, or a cynicism born of reading too much Anne Rice and Steven King. The following in an odyssey taken by this author to investigate a particular phenomenon occurring in literary circles both on and offline. This is a true story, honest. It happened to a friend of mine.

It was a beautiful wedding. Sunrise on a secluded beach, witnessing a union of two souls pledging publicly what their hearts already knew. The first rays of sun crested over the gently rocking waves and stuck two crystals hanging near their hearts, reflecting a rainbow of colours and, for a moment, illuminating the two of them in a glowing light. It seemed to be an unearthly blessing, a perfect moment. It was mushy. It was glorious. But that is not how my adventure began. It was later, over eggs, muffins and sweet coffee that one of the guests (Honest, she’s a real person. I’m not making this up) told a story of visiting the local library and getting the scare of her life. This was her story as best I can recall. (It so impressed me that I made notes as soon as I got home, honest. It’s not like I lifted this from someone else’s story):

Apparently, the Guest had gone to the library to do some anthropology research for a class. When she asked for help at the front desk, she was told she needed to see “the Oracle.” To this end, she was led down corridors and twisting hallways that belied the size of the building, for she was sure she had walked miles before she was shown into a room that terrified her. Here, in the middle of her local library, where good citizens thought themselves safe from harm, was a room filled with arcane devices and icons. There were shelves and shelves of hastily stacked loose-leaf notebooks and skulls of all sizes. (A later interview revealed that at least one of the skulls was a Mr. Potato Head.) The room was lit by hundreds of burning candles. There was a small collection of ancient armour pieces and feather dusters attached to riding crops. Papers reading “My Highest Recommendation” were strewn about. This was the room of someone with a serious fetish. Sitting in the midst of this ‘literary’ sanctum was a woman in a feathered mask typing furiously at a computer. The Guest, now completely unnerved, turned and ran, cries of “Sweet Mary” echoing down the hall. She left feathers fluttering in her wake, muffling the soft chuckle trailing after her.


Her story was certainly odd, but that didn’t account for the strange sense of recognition that stuck me. I knew she was telling the truth, and I knew this was just the tip of the iceberg (well, if they had icebergs in Miami, that’s what it would have been). Now, this island must have been near the Bermuda Triangle because that one day lasted for about 2 weeks before we got back to the mainland. It was a pleasant enough day, just terribly, terribly long and the ‘brides’ kept disappearing to the other side of the sand dunes for long periods of time. After one of those trips, we seemed to be out of honey for the muffins. But I digress.

The Guest refused to return with me to the library to retrace her steps from that fateful day. It had just been too traumatic for her, and being an understanding sort, I understood. I visited alone the next day. Being a Sunday and the library being closed, I didn’t learn much. But as I sat on the steps of this building that, as the Guest’s first person account had described, was much larger on the inside than it was on the outside, I had time to ponder all the strange things I had been witness to over the last 4 years. Her story had struck a cord in me, and I knew somehow that these seemingly random thoughts strung together might give me a place to start in my quest for the truth. I just knew- the truth was out there.

I did painstaking research which included watching every Xena episode at least 5 times, visiting every Xena-related website, flying to obscure places to meet with other Xena researchers, reading tons and tons and tons of fan fiction (ok, so it’s mostly alt), interviewing the occasional redheaded FBI special agent and running a yahoo internet search. Unavoidable facts were uncovered which have filled in the details of this strange tale I will now tell you to the best of my ability.


The Golden Age of Greece was waning. Most of the gods had lost followers, a certain raven-haired warrior showing them that the gods were fickle at best. Even Artemis was leaving Greece, an Irish lass having caught her eye. She had made elaborate plans to provide for her amazons and lead them to safe harbour, but that is another tale. She set plans in motion that were to come to fruition far in the future. From among her most devoted, she chose a priestess with a clever mind and generous spirit. Artemis could foresee that her people would become obscured through history and might lose their sense of identity. This priestess was given the sacred task of preserving the knowledge of the amazons, and the charge to reunite the lost tribes when the time was right. It isn’t clear whether Artemis gave this priestess immortality, or whether she drifts in and out of the spirit world as needed. All I know is that 4 years ago, this priestess began to put Artemis’ plan into effect.

Apparently, the first thing that happened was that Rob Tapert was vacationing in the Keyes, fly-fishing for tarpon. Before driving on down to the resort, he happened into the Miami library looking for some books about Ancient Greek Mythology for a TV series he was working on about Hercules. He was a little bored with the series already. The good guys were too good. The villain too silly. (What were they thinking with that giant chicken anyway?) Sort of a ‘Cowboys in Greece’ theme, riding centaurs off into the sunset. He’d wandered around in the stacks for awhile, ‘til he found the mythology section. A few times he felt he was being watched, but never really saw anyone. Among the books on Greek mythology, there was an oversized golden book half off the shelf, with no title, just a big X on the front. He felt drawn to it and checked it out from the Dade County Library. Behind the stacks there was a rustle of feathers and a broad grin. That night, Rob Tapert dreamed of the woman he would marry, and of a dark warrior woman. The fish were lucky. He left the next day for New Zealand to begin a new project. I checked the Library later when I had a chance. They have no record of Mr. Tapert visiting there, having a library card, or of a golden book with a large X.

Not long after the TV show began filming, chat rooms began to notice the important Artemisian themes running through the show. These were often disguised as what came to be called ‘subtext.’ This eventually came to light in a small bar in NY named for a cat food. Patrons there reported the tale to recent visitors. A remarkable number of them stated they were actually there when it happened, more than the bar could really hold. I only tell you this to make this story as accurate as possible. On a muggy September night, a lone woman, dressed casually, but dropping the occasional feather as she moved, walked into this NY women’s bar. She smiled wryly to see so many of the tribe drawn together here, yet not knowing their destiny. She engaged several in amicable conversation, sipped a beer, and having easily charmed the bartender, asked her to turn on the TV to a new show, XWP. The idle chatter quieted, then hoots and cheers were heard, as she eased herself back onto the street and headed for warmer climes. The first tribe was formed.

Tracking the rest of her elusive activities has been more difficult. I needed to ask for the assistance of several certified geeks. With their many skills, we were able to establish her influence on the internet, though we are not sure whether she has been in a corporal state. They said something to me about energy, and auras and the way binary code works and digital communication from an untraceable source. All that meant to me was they thought she might just be energy communicating directly over the airwaves. I can’t verify any of that. All we could prove was that the volume of communication attributed to her, as well as the timing of her posts, suggested that she never sleeps. I found that to be very odd, as it appears to be one of her influences on others as well. Another odd fact related to her varying corporal form: she has on at least one occasion turned into a loaf of nutbread, and perhaps some other sort of bun, but this is less certain.

Stories began to appear on the internet, drawing people’s interest and eventually drawing them together. Previously uninspired people would find themselves thinking of adventurous tales involving a raven-haired beauty and a blonde, er, a redhead, er, a blonde. Many of them recalled later that they had visited a library and found a book or slip of paper with a story idea afterwards in their backpacks or purse. Many of these hapless souls found each other via these electronic publications and formed into a counsel called the Secret Bard Society. It isn’t usually discussed outside meetings as it could hurt their credibility, but all of them have had encounters with this priestess turned muse. Privately, they tell of feathers left on their pillows, encouraging words magically appearing in emails, and dreams of women in leather halter tops and tangas. One Floridian, after being struck by lightening twice (it takes some people longer to get the message), found herself hearing voices from across the millennia and was compelled to write epics describing the life of one amazon queen and her consort. Eventually a community of people formed around her, and after showing their warrior spirit by attacking and destroying a bulletin board and then a website, they too formed into a tribe.

It is assumed that this priestess was very pleased with these developments, as she made her presence known by hosting a website and providing reviews of so many stories that it became obvious, to anyone taking the time to notice, that she was working at a superhuman pace. She has also briefly taken corporal form to interact with bards, potential bards, and others of Artemis’ followers. She even has allowed her picture to be taken (perhaps trying to dissuade the rumours that she is more than she seems). Lately it has come to light that she has been providing direct inspiration. She has at times even reviewed a story before it’s been written, as if her belief in the story can make it happen. The incontrovertible fact is, this has proven to be true. The first occurrence of this was right before she took the form of a loaf of nutbread, though there have been numerous instances.

Finally, my search took me back to the library the Guest had described in her tale. I felt I had gathered enough of the evidence to make for an interesting interview. I hoped to find out what Artemis had planned for these reunited tribes, or at least whether there be a 6th season. After walking around the library to assure myself that it didn’t really connect with the Biscayne Aquifer, I entered the building and inquired at the front desk as to where I might find the research desk. They pointed me to a computer. I smiled wryly, and told this helpful woman that no, I wanted to speak with the research librarian. She looked at me blankly and said they hadn’t had a research librarian since Anita Bryant went on her crusade and drew so much money away from worthwhile community services. Years. I patiently explained that a friend of mine had recently visited here and met briefly with the librarian I was seeking, someone they had, I assumed fondly, called ‘The Oracle.’ Her face went grey. Wordlessly, she led me through the stacks to a display on the back wall of the building. The building that was seemingly the right size for the outside square-footage. Here on the wall in a glass case was a mask. It was dark, with feathers extending out from the crown and sides, the face of it a stylized bird. Next to it was an ancient scroll, which the librarian explained to me was written in what was probably an Ancient Greek dialect, and then translated into a language that might have predated Gaelic. The scholars’ best guess was that it loosely translated to mean:

You will be my bow
The lost tribes will reunite
A gentle hand (could translate as encouraging)
They will dream the dream together
They will remember
You will send out my arrows
An oracle of a new age
But they will call you Nutbread*
*(The scholars are sure this is a mistranslation, but one of them, a Melinda Pappas, insisted on this wording).

The librarian looked around to make sure no one was within earshot and then whispered to me, “Sometimes we find feathers back here. And sometimes there are the most lovely stories. It’s very strange. But there is no back room and no one else works here anymore but me, not for years.” She then turned on her heel and quietly returned to the front desk, leaving me to ponder the mystery of the Phantom of the Library.

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