The Price of Knowledge

Brado’s heart raced as he placed the tome upon the table before him. His eyes ran over the ancient leather cover, every crack and wrinkle illuminated in the flickering light of a solitary candle. The pungent aroma of rot ascended from the decrepit book, the tainted fumes blanketing Brado’s mind in a haze.

The scholar sat there a moment, enraptured by the volume. It called to him, enticed him to uncover its buried knowledge. He longed to light another candle, to take in the tome in its entirety. But fear stayed his hand, and he forced himself to make due with what little light he had available.

Steeling himself, he reached for the book, his hand wavering like a dead leaf in the wind. Sweat stained his palms, and were it not for the gloves he had donned he would have drenched the primeval pages of the work. He daintily hooked an arthritic finger under the tome’s desiccated cover. It was far heavier than it had first appeared.

Inhaling deeply, Brado lifted the rot-chewed leather, pulling it back with painful concentration. Every muscle in his body tensed as he lowered the cover, his heart nearly beating out of his chest. With one final motion he released the leather, ripping his hand away as soon as it rested upon the table.

Brado froze, his hand held above his the book. He dared not read the first lines of the text, not yet at least. He focused upon the candle that danced to his side, drawing upon every well of courage he held within him.

His mind made up, Brado finally exhaled. Turning his head, he gazed upon the tome.

Like talons the words latched onto his eyes, locking his vision onto the decrepit pages of the ghastly book. Characters and symbols writhed upon the disintegrating paper, burning shapes onto Brado’s mind.

Horrified, the scholar tried to look away, to throw himself from his chair and escape the shadowed library. But his body failed him, and he was locked in his seat. He tried to force his eyes closed in the hopes of saving himself from the damned book, but they remained open.

An icy breeze blew across the table, snuffing the candle and turning the pages of the monstrous tome. Now cloaked in darkness the text smouldered, like dying coals upon a funeral pyre. It thrashed upon the rotted pages, dancing madly as it pierced Brado’s eyes. Sparks flew from the demonic text, scattering embers onto Brado’s clothing.

In an instant his robes caught alight, a crimson flame engulfing his left arm. Still Brado was powerless, like a puppet with its strings cut. He tried to scream, but all that came forth was a pathetic mewling.

He could only watch as the flame danced over him, a bestial hunger driving it forth. As it engulfed his chest, he feared this would not be the end of his suffering.

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