The large curiously light leather bound tome is fascinating. I read the words without really comprehending the symbols as abstract ideas, concepts, litanies, and formations pour through my mind. I try in vain to grasp the mass of information but it is like trying to catch a typhoon in a bucket and I only can get glimpses of understanding regarding the mass of information flowing through my mind.
I read through the ten chapters worth of… Something? before I hit a block in the form of pages refusing to budge as though they are carved from steel. I try to turn them with a thought as the others had so easily moved with a mental nudge, then actually tug on the edges in annoyance before I abruptly realize that I have not been physically turning the last four hundred and sixty eight pages with my hands, or indeed touching the book at all for some time as it seems to be floating some small distance off my hand.
I should be more alarmed by this right? But it just feels natural like breathing, or walking. Something I have been doing for so long I shouldn’t even have to think about it anymore. In fact it is exactly when I think about it that the floating stops and the book falls. The tome bounces heavily off my hand and falls to the floor with an astonishingly dense thud.
“Thousand hells and Dust that hurt! I curse feeling as though these words are significantly more virulent then they sound as I rub my wrist where the edge of the book hit and step off the wooden stool bending down to pick it up in the light from the booth lamps.
The bar is busy, bright and bustling with about ten strangers around me in robes coats and one small very pale girl in a Victorian styled black and white dress. The girl sits on the stool beside mine sipping from a glass of muddy red liquid. I take another look around to see anyone familiar- there. Brandon and the man in the coat have moved to a booth as the waitress has apparently started serving alcohol handing a frothing glass of beer to a very large heavy set man with a thick grey mustache sitting on the other side of me.
Only the barista keeps moving as I suddenly drop the book, the room going silent for less than a second before everyone excepting Brandon and the man go back to their drinks and conversations.
“Sorry to bother either of you two. ” I apologize hastily to the girl, and the leather jacket wearing biker like gentleman before I pull my book into my hand with a mental tug, grab my now room temperature coffee-thing, and go to sit at the booth with the others.
My head is spinning as I sit down beside Brandon and place the book in front of me with my coffee.
“When the hells did the bar open?” I ask grumpily as I take a sip from my coffee as Brandon and the blond man stare at me seemingly stunned-mmmm… The drink tastes nothing like coffee, more like spicy lemon with vanilla, and something that almost reminds me of my Uncle’s ghastly attempt at making curry. The drink has a strong flavor but it’s astonishingly delicious.
“You do realize that the Acadia Blend you are drinking has been steeping for the better part of twelve hours while you have been staring at your book right?” Brandon proffers apparently a bit grossed out by my consumption of my drink.
I ignore him for more lukewarm vanilla bliss.
“He’s probably in psycho-magical shock from reading a Grimoire. Your friend here clearly didn’t know anything about magic this morning and now he’s got who knows what floating around in his head. He is going to be spouting nonsense for the next few days until his mind can sort everything out.”
Brandon nods and turns back to his own pint glass with a sigh. “Right as usual Solomon. I was hoping that maybe we could find out what you dragged me into this time… Especially considering my only formerly normal friend has apparently just connected to it?”
Brandon sounds pissed as he takes a big swig from his beer and glares at Solomon.
The room seems to spin and my bones turn to jelly as black swirls on the edges of my vision. “I am going to sleep now OK? Don’t wake the others without me…” I murmur to Brandon- then I pass out onto his shoulder.
I am standing in a dark forest somewhere, pools of stagnant water lie shrouded in thin pale white mist beneath twisted trees and a moonlit sky. I stand on the side of a grassy hill rising above the murk around me, moss and tumbled stones caped by a single enormous rotting fallen oak. The hill is steep but manageable, there is a robed figure sitting by a small fire in the crook of the fallen tree’s corpse. I do not want to go to the warmth of the fire I want to run through the murk, to feel the wind rush through my fur. Perhaps I would find another traveler, one who knows better than to make his camp on the hill.
I turn in the air and sniff, the stale water filled with life, the wet moss beneath me, damp rock stone, and the familiar non-scent of the mist. I can see a small pale blue light within the mist to the north, flickering between trees where the water of the swamp is deepest.
But there is the man on the hill, waiting and I must see to his purpose there before I can hunt. With a silent growl I turn and drift silently across the moss covered stones.
The man watches the mist rise along the edges of the hill overtaking first pool, then cracked moss covered stones of what was once a home before it reaches the bottom most branches of the fallen lord of the swamps. With the mist rises the one he has been waiting for all day and night beside his fire. A mote of pale blue light rises through the mist growing nearer until the mist stops to swirl just beyond the edge of the firelight as it must.
The mote drifts through the mist a ball of white-blue fire bright and cold as it enters the fire lit circle atop the hill.
I stare at the man in the hood. his wrinkled skin is ruddy, his unkempt beard and long curly hair white with age. The man removes his hood to examine my own form -whatever that is- with two large blue eyes filled with weary intellect. I remember reading the book back in Tellers, I suppose it is not strange to have a strange dream after reading a book of magic. This is not just a strange dream though. I have never seen this place, I can smell the rotting wood, the strangely familiar scent of the mist, feel the hard packed charred and damp earth beneath me. The man before me is here for a reason.
It briefly occurs to me that I should probably be more worried, or even panicked about reading a Grimoire, magic being real, and a visit by a strange man in a dream, but I push the thought aside.
“Why are you here?”
If the man is bothered by my rudeness he shows no sign of it giving a slight smile.
“Very straight forward aren’t you? I won’t pretend to see whatever She sees in you, but I suppose this will be interesting at the very least.” The man’s voice is light almost humorous with a slight unidentifiable accent. He speaks the word She with great respect as though referring to someone important.
The man in the bar seemed confused I could understand it so perhaps not everyone can read the book.
“I suppose you are here because I read the book, and that She is the one who made the decision to allow me to understand it?”
The old man nods “Yes. The Mistress Grendel has taken notice of you, and now that you have read the Sixth Grimoire she wishes that I make you an offer.”
Grimoires if I remember are books of magic, usually forbidden or really dangerous. I seem to remember something about the catholic church trying and failing to destroy them but I think that is from a manga. What I can be certain of is that the man, or this being Grendel probably would not be asking my permission t do something unless I actually have a choice in the matter. One does not need to be an avid reader of fiction in general to know this sort of deal must be loaded.
“Before I hear your offer I would like to know why this Grendel is interested in me, as well as exactly what She is.”
The man laughs, a dry dusty found of genuine amusement from his belly. “The first of those I cannot answer. Those cleverer than I have tried and failed to know why The Mistress acts the way she does.”
“Cannot, or won’t answer?” I glare at the man who seems to be deliberately avoiding telling me anything.
The man seems suddenly very tired and very very old as he replies in a much dryer voice “Can’t. I don’t know the answer. The mistress is a being beyond the bounds of logic, reason or reality. Lady Grendel is nobility among the outsiders- beings beyond this or any world. She, and her kind are to gods, and arch-demons what those same things are to mortals -an unknowable impossible power outside of all physical spaces. I am not foolish enough to believe I could fathom the thoughts of a being so outside of the relm of conventional reality that it knows neither time nor death in a place that is defined by a complete lack of physical laws. such a being is simply to alien and distant from everything I know for me to make any significant guess beyond that of her chosen nature.”
Am I seriously stuck in a H.P Lovecraft cosmic horror story? Seriously? I know my luck is terrible but this is ridiculous.
“Besides Even if I did know I would be bound by my purpose to tell you. I could not tell you though I am bound by the same Gias that the user of the book inherits as the shard of the author’s soul embedded within the book until it is first used. I am incapable of telling lies.”
The man’s words are unreal- but have an odd sort of ring of truth as he mentions a Gias. I actually remember that from the book, The Dancer as an immortal was bound with a single rule they could not break even if they wanted to. The book never actually said what the rule was, so I’d guess this is it. But as for this man, or soul shard… or whatever’s purpose…
“So why are you here?”
The man sighs again before smiling slightly at the ground. “My purpose is to answer the questions the user of the Grimoire may have about Lady Grendel’s offer.”
The man sighs.
“A Grimoire that is not involved in a pact unlike many magical books will not conduct the flow of information through psychic channels but rather through the essence of a being. Your soul if you will. But that sort of bond does not work unless either you preform very specific rituals to reduce ones own barrier to the realm of magic, what most would call the afterlife or the spirit world…”
I don’t like where this is going. The man takes a breath through his teeth with a hiss looking rather nervous. “-However it also applies to someone who is certain to die very soon.”
“Grendel’s offer is this- you will become one of the fourteen beasts of Grendel, bound to the Grimoire as its spirit for all time.-” This does not seem very fair, either I die, or I become a book? What the Thousand hells because apparently those are a thing?
“-Your soul will being to Grendel and she will shape your form in perfect reflection of your essence becoming one of the great books of magic. Until banishment of your soul to Grendel’s halls, or the end of reality you would become the intellect of a great book of magic capable of materializing a physical form. Immortal beyond all time your spirit your mind set in motion through magic alone.”
“So I become a magic book working for a Lovecraftian god… Or I die.”
The man looks at me curiously “I am not familiar with this style of ‘Lovecraftian’, and Grendel is most definitely not a god, Gods are much more limited in scope.”
“Grimoires once they have a soul to empower them are a tool, you would have a choice of those capable of using the power within the pages, you could form bonds as a familiar. But you would not be human anymore.”
Death. I would never see Brandon, Aunt, Uncle, or-… anyone again but do… whatever the dead do? I only know of the existence of the Thousand hells and so while I have no doubt the book left out any better options can I really leave them all behind? Can I really risk that?
But is it worth the price? I would be able to find someone and grant them power. Maybe they could help me search for what I lost.
Is it worth it?
I level my eyes with the man’s “Did I ever actually have a choice?”
The man sighs looking into my eyes he replies. “Considering how the mistress chooses people? Probably not.”