Flickering light consumed Brado’s head, wreathing his vision in crimson flame. The fire was drawn into his lungs, and pierced his eyes with unimaginable heat. He could feel his insides burn, flame running through his veins and filling his heart. It felt as though his very soul had been set alight, every fibre of his being turning to cinder.
He longed for death, for an escape from the agony that had consumed him. He begged every deity he knew of for salvation from the fire, for a quick end. He promised his soul in eternal servitude should he be pulled from his living nightmare.
But his plea went unanswered.
As he writhed internally, the flame assaulted him with symbols, a thousand unknown characters that wormed their way through his eyes and into his mind. Horrific whispers ushered forth from the crackling fire, muttering dark secrets in some long forgotten tongue as heat filled Brado’s ears.
Visions of maddening clarity poured into his head, etched upon the inside of his skull. Before him a thousand vistas presented themselves, each a portrait drawn from the depths of time. The fall of the first empire, the confessions of the first thief, the last breath of the last human. All dug deeply into his mind, ripping through his thoughts as they embedded themselves.
A new agony rippled through Brado, one that eclipsed the physical pain engulfing him. His mind ached, pushed far past the bursting point by the waves of knowledge that assaulted him. It was as though his skull would burst at any moment.
Within the churning sea of thoughts, old, personal memories were consumed by new ones. Places long sunk beneath the waves and people long buried beneath the sands filled his head, as did other, darker things.
As his mind reached its breaking point, the flame withdrew. It writhed down his neck, over his torso, and down his left arm. Brado dropped forward as the force that had held him dispersed, and he crashed to the table.
The aged scholar struggled to move his arms, and, shaking, he pushed himself back into his seat. His vision had cleared, and before him the damned book had burned away, its ashes scattered across the table.
Brado looked himself over. His robes, once pale, were now scorched black. His beard had burned off, as did his hair. His arthritic fingers were singed and ached horribly. But he was alive.
A small flutter of victory filled Brado. Though the act had brought him no end of agony, he had learned what was held within the tome. His mind buzzed with thoughts and ideas, a library worth of of knowledge now neatly categorized within his skull. Now he had the knowledge he needed, and he could use it to…
Brado’s heart raced. Desperately he searched his mind, looking for the thing that drove him to open the book. He followed every train of thought, played a thousand memories over in the hopes of some snippet that would lead him to his conclusion. Rapidly he exhausted his bank of knowledge, with not the slightest sign as to why he did what he did.
Brado placed his arms upon the table, and lay his head down. He cursed himself, cursed the book, and cursed the gods. His purpose hidden from him, his memories stolen, he wept. He now knew his torture had only begun.