SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE OTHER BOOKS!!!
“Sister, we can’t let this happen, you know what he’s planning!”
“We don’t have a choice Roselyn. I feel the same way you do, but the council has ruled. We are not allowed to interfere, it’s not our world.”
“But Ariel, if he does it wrong, he could destroy both worlds!”
“That’s a risk we’re going to have to take. He was right, it was our fault things happened the way they did. We’re now going to have to pay the piper for ignoring it for so long.”
Toby’s heart froze in his chest as he stood next to his bike, ready to leave the reservation. He was getting sick of Giselle’s rhymes and riddles. All he wanted was a straight answer and if he didn’t get it soon, he was going to explode, “What do you mean Masarabi lied to me? What are you talking about?”
Giselle stepped away from Gishan, lowered her eyes to the ground, and began pacing in a circle, “Toby… you were right when you said I should have left you and Lia’na alone. I am partially responsible for getting you two mixed up in this awful mess. Had I not asked you for help, the chances are that she would still be alive right now… The Apocalyphe would still exist, but the Filis de Lux would have no way of getting to it. I couldn’t make up for that even if I spent the rest of my life trying.”
Toby let out an angry sigh. His body felt numb and he was running out of patience, “Giselle, really, I’m in no mood for any of this. We all have our regrets, me more so than anyone. I’m sorry, but I can’t play counselor to you right now. If you have a point, would you mind getting to it quicker so I can get the hell out of here?”
Giselle nodded, “I’m sorry Toby… you’re right… but what if I told you that other books like the Apocalyphe were in the Library of Congress? What if I told you that almost no one knows they exist? The Government fears what some of the books represent, so they keep them secret even from their own employees. It got to the point where the only people who knew what was in some of those archives are long since dead. Many of the locked areas of the rare books sections don’t even have keys anymore and are regarded as off-limits.”
“So?” Toby asked, ready to walk away.
“Well…” She continued. “Being an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation has its benefits… including access to all of these things without anyone questioning it. What if I told you that after Lia’na died, I went poking around the library on a whim and discovered another book in the archives that may be of some interest to you? What if I told you that I took it… and no one would ever even notice it was gone?”
Toby was now slowly becoming interested. He stepped away from his bike, having temporarily lost the desire to get as far away as fast as he could, “What book?”
“Before I show you…” she replied softly, “answer me one question. What would you do to get Lia’na back, to be able to hold her, and love her again? How far are you willing to go and what price are you willing to pay?”
A slight breeze swept by that brought the sound of movement with it. The group turned immediately, suspecting that they were being watched. Toby scanned the darkness for a few moments, but there was no one around to be seen. The hair stood up on the back of the friends’ necks, but they ignored it.
Toby turned back to Giselle and looked deep into her brown eyes, letting her know he was serious, “You already know the answer to that. I would bring this entire world to its knees to hold her again, even if it were just for a few moments. I would sell my own soul to the devil for just one day with her. I would go through what we went through a million times over if it meant she’d be waiting for me at the end.”
Giselle bit her lower lip and sighed as she pulled out a square shaped package wrapped in brown cloth from under her jacket. Part of her had wished she’d never brought it up, but she knew she owed Toby this much, “Toby… please understand that I could go to prison for the rest of my life for what I’m about to show you…”
Giselle slowly unwrapped the package and held it out to Toby. Inside was an 8”x 10” book. It looked to be around the same age, if not older than the Magnifica or the Apocalyphe, but it was in much better condition than either. The cover was brown leather with golden clasps. There was an eye on the cover that bore a striking resemblance to the Eye of Providence.
Toby took it from her and instantaneously felt a charge of spiritual energy flow through his body. Whatever this book was, it was powerful, more so than the Magnifica or the Apocalyphe… possibly combined. He got the feeling that the eye on the cover was watching him as he looked the book over. It was unlike anything he’d ever seen before.
Toby looked up at Giselle as the charge flowed through him. His eyes narrowed as he examined her nervous expression, “What is this?”
The lights from the nearby torches flickered on Giselle’s face as she nervously smiled. Toby continued to look over the book as she spoke, “When I did some digging, I found an old script left by none other than Thomas Jefferson himself.”
Toby looked up in shock, “What would Thomas Jefferson have to do with this?”
Giselle sucked in a deep breath as she began to tell the story, “Near as I can tell, this book was one of the artifacts that the freemasons helped to smuggle out of Europe before the American Revolution. The local masonic lodge didn’t know what to make of this book and feared the stories that they were told.”
Giselle felt chills travel down her spine as she continued, “One of the masons at that time, a man named Benjamin McConnel, was a skilled linguist. He was able to translate part of the text. It wasn’t much, but it was enough for them to figure out what this book was for. When they realized its implications, the freemasons panicked. They tried to destroy the book, but when they failed, they decided it needed to be hidden away. They gave it to then-president Thomas Jefferson for safe keeping.”
Toby felt like he was back in Professor Arias’s class as he listened to Giselle tell the story, “Jefferson held on to the book for a few years, but after a couple of suspected break-ins at his home, he donated the book, along with the rest of his collection to the Library of Congress after Washington was set ablaze during the war of 1812.”
Giselle sucked in one last deep breath as she nervously finished her history lesson, “The message he wrote said that he truly believes great evil surrounds this book and it must be kept hidden and secret at all times.”
Gishan took a nervous step back as Toby opened the book and looked at the ancient hieroglyphics, “This isn’t Alliance writing. It looks totally different.”
Giselle shook her head, “True, but you should be able to manipulate it the same way as you did with the Magnifica.”
Toby quickly focused his mind as he stared at the page. He waved his hand over the book and watched as the lettering rearranged itself to modern English. His mind ached as he worked. Some of the letters were similar to what he saw in the Magnifica, but others were totally different. There was no way to know if the book would completely translate or if it would come out as complete gibberish.
As the enchantment worked, Toby looked up at Giselle, “What is this?”
“The Necronexus.” She replied as Gishan walked up next to her. “From what I was able to find out, this book was written by an unknown sect outside of the Alliance. No one knew about it until the Alliance raided their lands. When they discovered what it was, they also tried to destroy it, but the book resisted all spells, charms, and enchantments. Nothing appeared to do the job. When they failed to dispose of it, the Alliance Council took the book and hid it in the southernmost part of their territory. They wanted to make sure that it was completely forgotten.”
Toby listened as Giselle gave him yet another history lesson, “It is believed that the Egyptians later found the book, successfully translated it, and used its spells in their books of the dead. Since then, the Necronexus has made its way around history without really being noticed. It found its way into the hands of the Knights Templar, who feared what it may be and locked it away after they themselves failed to destroy it.”
Gishan sighed, “So that would explain how it found its way into the hands of the Freemasons.”
“Yeah that’s right.” Giselle replied.
Toby shook his head while he looked at the spell book, “This… resurrection and regeneration enchantment looks like exactly what we want… but it’s complicated… It looks like we’re going to need quite a few things, most of which look more symbolic than anything. I hate the idea of having to wait… but I’ll need a week or so just to make sure I get it right. Even then there appears to be a lot of risk. These enchantments are unlike anything I’ve done before.”
Gishan nodded, “Tell me what you need, if I can’t get it, I’ll know someone who can. We’ll find everything on there as long as it still exists. You have my word. Just promise me one thing.”
Toby looked up from the book, “Go ahead, I’m listening, what’s up?”
“Don’t rush into this.” He replied. “Lia’na didn’t deserve the cards she was dealt and she deserves a second chance… so do you. You’re like a brother to me and I know she made you happy like no one else could… but dwarves have terrible legends about what happens to people who screw with nature. Take your time and make sure you get it right. That’s all I ask.”
“I remember your mother telling us some of those legends as ghost stories.” Toby said with a chuckle. “Don’t worry, Gishan, I learned my lesson after the last time. I’m not going to be doing anything that might put another person in jeopardy that I promise you. I’ve lost too much already from making that mistake.”
“I want to be there too.” Giselle added. “You never know what might happen with spells like this and you’ll need all the help you can get. That book is considerably older than the Magnifica and is apparently impossible to destroy. We know a lot less than we should about this book. What we do know is that it could be easily misused if it falls into the wrong hands. We need to be extra cautious.”
“Agreed.” Toby said with a renewed spirit. “So we’re all in on this then?”
“Yeah.” Gishan replied.
Giselle hesitated for a moment before answering, “Yes… but on one condition.”
“Only one?” Toby asked. “What’s that?”
“Once you’ve brought her back, you never use the book again.” Giselle replied. “I know your uncle and your father were taken from you… and I understand the temptation to try to save them. Lord knows there are people I’d love to see again, but that book is too dangerous to keep around. You never know what else could be waiting to come through from the other side. I will allow you to take that risk once, and only once. So once you’ve gotten what you want, you need to find a way to destroy the book.”
The look in Giselle’s eyes was absolutely serious. Toby could see that if he tried to negotiate or refuse to destroy the book, there was no way she’d let him use it. He also knew that there would be risks and as much as he loved his uncle, he knew that he owed Lia’na a second chance.
Giselle sighed as she finished her terms, “I won’t take it back to the Library, nor will I leave it in your hands. Not after what we saw with the Apocalyphe. Messing with the metaphysical goes way beyond simple enchanting, and is too dangerous. I won’t risk our existence by allowing it to fall into the wrong hands… as though there were any such thing as right hands in this case.”
She held placed her hand on the book and looked into Toby’s eyes, “This is my price, one use, and then I want it destroyed.”
“So that’s the deal then?” Toby asked. “Lia’na’s life for this book’s destruction?”
“You could look at it that way.” Giselle replied.
“I am, and you don’t need to worry.” Toby said in a reassuring tone. “I don’t know what I can do that the ancient enchanters didn’t already try, but once she’s back in my arms and all is said and done… I’m getting rid of the Fragmentum, this book, and possibly even the Magnifica. When I’m done, I’m ridding the world of magic. There is just no place for it anymore. Lia’na deserves the normal life she was robbed of. That doesn’t seem possible as long as enchanters still exist.”
“Good…” Giselle said in approval. “Then count me in all the way!”
Toby smiled for the first time in days. The pain of Lia’na’s death was still with him, but hopefully it wouldn’t be something he’d have to live with for the rest of his life, “Then let’s head back to Massachusetts and get started. I need to study these writings while you get the supplies we’ll need. The sooner we get everything together, the sooner she’ll be back with us.”
Gishan nodded, “Right, so let’s all meet back at Toby’s condo tomorrow and figure out what we need.”
Toby turned away and hid the book in the left leather pouch on the side of his bike. He tapped the odometer to wake it up as he got on. The bike revved its engine, as though asking a question.
Toby shook his head in response, “No I’m feeling better now. It looks like the story isn’t quite over yet.”
The bike purred a little as he got comfortable. Toby smiled, “I know that… but we’re going to get her back. I’ll fill you in on the way home.”
The bike roared in excitement, “I know… I miss her too, but I said I’d do anything to save her and I meant it. So let’s get going, we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”
The bike made a squealing sound with its back tires, anxious to get going. Toby nodded, “I can’t wait to have her back either. She should be in my arms right now if there were any justice in the world. It’s just not fair.”
The bike slowly rolled forward as Toby rested his arms on the handle bars, “Come on. Let’s go home…”
Gishan waved as Toby disappeared into a dust cloud that was kicked up by the bike’s tires, “Good luck, Toby! See you tomorrow!”
Toby had hoped that he would be able to learn the enchantments quickly and bring her back within a day or two. However his hopes were shattered when he saw what would be needed to conduct the ritual. Aside from procedures and mental preparations, there were some rare items that they would also need.
As promised, Giselle and Gishan showed up at Toby’s house the day after the funeral. Toby had spent the entire night going over the book and had gotten no sleep. His eyes had heavy bags underneath them and his skin was pale.
Giselle noticed his disheveled appearance the moment she entered the living room, “Good God, Toby. You’re not going to be able to save her if you run yourself into the ground like this.”
Toby rubbed his eyes as he spoke, “No, I know that… but every time I close my eyes, I see her face… the look she gave me during the last few minutes before she died. I just can’t stand it.”
Gishan frowned, “I know how you feel buddy, but you need to be healthy. How ya going to conduct this ritual if you’re falling asleep?”
“Fine.” Toby replied. “Let’s figure out what we need for the ritual and then I’ll go to bed.”
“Sounds good to me.” Gishan said as he sat down next to Toby and rested his stubby legs. “Let’s get started.”
Over the next few days, Giselle and Gishan worked diligently to get everything they would need. Gishan worked especially hard as he knew better than Giselle how badly this was killing Toby. They were brothers as far as the young dwarf was concerned and there was little he wouldn’t do for Toby. He knew that he would have to hurry before his friend collapsed from exhaustion.
The few nights where Toby was able to sleep, he was forced to watch the horror unfold once again. No matter how hard he tried, he could not expel the dream for even a single moment of relief. It would continue to haunt him and continue to make him face the grim reality that she was dead because he was powerless to save her.
Every night, it was the same thing. Toby watched in horror as Lia’na placed her hand on the Apocalyphe. He tried to run to her, but a wall of energy blocked his path. He tried everything from slamming his body into it, to trying to go around, to blasting it with both light and dark enchantments. Nothing worked and there was nothing he could do except watch helplessly as the release of energy from the book killed her.
Lia’na began to shake as the powers of the Fragmentum and the book ripped into her soul. The same thing happened each time. The book was destroyed and a bolt of light hit Lia’na. Blood poured from her abdomen as she looked up at Toby with a sympathetic expression. The light drained from her eyes and tears flowed as she cried out, “Toby… help me… please! It hurts…”
One morning, Toby’s eyes shot open to the sounds of a kettle in the kitchen screaming that its contents were hot. He jolted upwards into a sitting position and fell off the couch. His left hip ached in pain as he struggled back into his spot.
“Oh, sorry about that,” A voice appeared behind him, “I didn’t think the kettle would be that loud!”
Toby looked up to see what was going on. His eyes were only half-open and his vision was badly blurred. He tried to make the fuzz go away by rubbing them a few times and eventually succeeded.
Giselle entered his field of view as he spoke, “It’s all right Giselle… you probably just did me a favor.”
Giselle was standing over the stove in her pink pajama pants and one of the long t-shirts she had brought with her. The shirt looked huge on her, but wasn’t long enough to cover her legs, so the pajamas took care of the rest. She frowned as she poured the hot water into a mug, “Still having the same nightmare?”
Toby looked over at her as he spoke, “Yeah… I can’t get her out of my head. It’s driving me insane!”
Giselle worked diligently to finish her morning tea, “I know, I’ve been through it myself and I understand what that’s like. The only comfort I can offer is that it does get easier over time. Either way, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. We’re almost ready to get started on the ritual.”
Toby nodded, “I know, I just don’t understand how I can’t even get one decent night’s rest.”
Giselle gave him a sympathetic smile, “The amount you’ve been drinking lately probably hasn’t helped anything! When’s the last time you actually slept in your bed?”
“A few days…” Toby admitted.
“You see?” Giselle asked in an accusing voice. “I’m sure that’s part of it! Lying face down on this leather sofa like you passed out can not be comfortable. You need to be in your own bed.”
Giselle walked over to a small box on the counter and plucked a teabag out of it. The water in the mug steamed as she added the bag and a drop of honey from the bottle next to the stove. The mug made a faint sound resembling a bell as she stirred the tea.
Toby shrugged, “It still smells like her. It’s even harder to sleep there. When I close my eyes, it’s like she’s still there.”
Giselle sighed, “As much as I hate to say it, maybe it’s time to replace the sheets then? If it drives you that insane, then it might be time.”
Toby looked at the ground as he thought about it, “Maybe…”
“Definitely.” Giselle replied as she looked at Toby.
A concerned look came over her face like she wanted to say something, but was afraid of what Toby would say. She took a step closer and spoke, “Toby, I hate to bring this up now… I know you have high hopes for the enchantment. I do too, but we have to accept the possibility that it may not work.”
Toby shook his head, “I’m aware of that, but I don’t want to think about it now.”
“You have to.” Giselle shot back. “You have to consider what you’ll do if we can’t bring her back. A hard choice will have to be made.”
Toby eye’d her suspiciously, “What are you talking about?”
“If we can’t bring her back, you’re going to have to let her go.” Giselle replied. “That involves moving her out.”
Giselle sighed as a confused look came over Toby’s face. She didn’t want to say what she knew that she had to, “Lia’na never left us. She’s here right now… in her smells, her clothes, and the decorations she brought here. She’ll continue to linger here as long as you hold on to her. For now that’s fine, but if we fail… eventually you’re going to have to let go of it.”
Toby lowered his eyes, “Enough, I don’t want to hear this… not now.”
Once her mug was empty, Giselle walked over and sat next to Toby on the couch. The moment her hand touched the moist leather, she shot up, “Aw gross, thanks for warning me, Toby!”
Toby shrugged, “I can’t help it if I sweat.”
“Yeah, but its leather,” Giselle replied, “it doesn’t absorb the sweat, it just let’s the stuff pool!”
“Sorry.” Toby said in a barely emotional tone.
“Ugh, this is what I mean!” Giselle shouted. “Toby, as your friend, I’m telling you right now, you need to get out of here! Go ride your bike up and down the road or go walk around Arcanus. I don’t care, just do something! This is not healthy.”
Giselle cleaned herself off and sat down in the armchair next to the couch, refusing to go anywhere near where Toby was again, “Gishan should be back in another day or two with the corpse flower we need. I’m sorry it’s taken us so long to get the ingredients, but some of this stuff is complicated and very rare. We’re actually lucky that none of it is extinct.”
She picked up an odd-looking knife from the side table, “I mean look at this! We needed ebony to hand-carve a ceremonial knife for the ritual, we also needed a bit of her remains, which the elves were not going to give up willingly. Sneaking back on to the reservation before they buried her wasn’t easy! Then we needed candles made from pure whale fat! Seriously, whale fat? No one even uses that anymore… Now we need this flower and hopefully that will be it!”
Toby shook his head, “I know that, and it didn’t help that it took me so long to translate the Necronexus. The damn book drained me of my energy for days! I’ve never seen an ancient text so complicated that it actually took more than a simple decipher enchantment to translate it! It was more like trying to web a network of unknown lines and dialogue together to make something partially coherent!”
“I remember….” Giselle responded. “I watched you struggling with it. You were off your feet for two days after!”
She sighed as she looked at the door, “I would have helped you if I could have, but that was way beyond anything I could have done. I also had to coordinate Gishan’s trip to get the flower.”
She broke her gaze momentarily to look down at her mug as she sipped the tea before continuing, “It should have been me going after that flower. It would have been… but after the chaos in Washington, and our little incident in the Netherlands, I’ve been on conference call after conference call with my superiors and have been essentially grounded. Even so… I should never have let Gishan go to Malaysia alone.”
Toby smiled, “He’ll be fine… he always is. That dwarf has talked himself out of trouble more times than he’d ever admit to.”
“I hope you’re right.” Giselle replied as she headed for the guest room to change. “You know him better than I do, but I still worry.”
Toby stared blankly at the frame on his end table. It was a beautiful picture of Lia’na and Toby at Revere Beach. He would never forget that day. Lia’na had asked a dwarf that was passing by to take the picture for them.
Toby had expected Lia’na to stand next to him, but instead, she jumped on his back. Her legs hugged his hips and her arms were loosely draped around his neck. Toby’s arms were holding Lia’na’s legs in place as the two of them stood there smiling.
After a few moments, Toby could no longer stand looking at it. He grabbed the pictured and turned it over so that he didn’t have to see the smiling faces. That was nothing more than a piece of history now.
Giselle noticed it and frowned, “I know you miss her Toby. We’re going to do everything we can to get her back.”
Toby stood up and headed for the bathroom, “I know that… Thank you…”
Without another word, Toby closed the door to his bedroom and headed into the shower. Giselle shook her head as he disappeared from view. Her heart sank in her chest. It’s just not right.
Toby shut the door to the bathroom. His skin was oily and itched as he stripped off the t-shirt and boxers he’d been wearing for the last two days. Part of him just wanted to throw out the clothes, given how badly they smelled, but he knew that they could be salvaged if washed soon.
The water pouring out of the shower head didn’t offer him any comfort as 48 hours of sweat washed away. The soap that came off of his body was tinted gray and he had to vigorously run the shampoo through his hair to get the plastic feeling of grease to go away. He was getting clean, but it didn’t feel any better.
Toby leaned down and turned off the shower. He stood in place for a few moments, letting the water drip away as he stared at the steam that whisked by his face. He leaned on the wall, not ready to move. He was completely paralyzed as he remembered the joy of looking forward to showers when Lia’na lived with him.
After more than ten minutes, Toby got out of the shower and grabbed a towel. His mind was completely blank as he dried off and got dressed. He threw on some black jeans and a red t-shirt before grabbing his keys and heading for the bedroom door.
Giselle was now sitting in the living room chair, sipping another cup of tea as Toby opened the door to the bedroom. The TV was on and she was keeping an eye on the restoration projects efforts aimed at bringing Boston back to it’s glory. She was interrupted by the creaking sound as Toby’s door opened.
She smiled as she looked at him, “There, now that looks better. You look like a new man now that you’ve cleaned up a little.”
“I don’t feel like a new man.” Toby replied as he slowly started moving towards the front door.
“Going somewhere?” She asked.
“Yeah,” Toby replied, “I’m heading for Revere Beach. I’ll be back in a while.”
A worried expression appeared on Giselle’s face, “Toby, I know I told you to get out, but are you sure that Revere Beach is a good idea?”
Toby sighed as he stopped at the door, “What do you want from me? It’s where I used to go when I needed to clear my head. There is no place that I can go now where she won’t be haunting me.”
“Yeah I know that,” Giselle replied, “but now… I mean given how much time you two spent there. I’m just worried… Look just promise me you won’t have a meltdown until you’re off your bike, okay?”
“Fine.” Toby replied as he closed the door behind him without even looking up.
Giselle sighed as he disappeared from view. She feared that Toby would wind up coming back in traction, but that was a risk she ran no matter where he went. In the end, she knew there was nothing she could do about it.
Hope you enjoyed the first chapter. The rest of the book can be purchased here.
- Series: James Harrington’s Magnifica
- Paperback: 338 pages
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0692254307
- ISBN-13: 978-0692254301
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