City of Torment

City of Torment by Bruce R. Cordell

Book: City of Torment by Bruce R. Cordell Read Free Book Online
Authors: Bruce R. Cordell
have captured his entire interest. Japheth recalled how, as a drugged acolyte, he had sauntered past wonders: a heavy book made of copper foil stamped with arcane sigils, bound between thin covers of beaten silver; a book bound between sheets of yellowish iron, whose indecipherable title alternately burned with fire and sparked with electricity; and a libram bound between two metallic angel wings, from which glorious voices issued. No, under the influence of dust, he had passed by these glamorous wonders to the chamber’s far corner, shadowed and dank. There he plucked a small, brownish tome from behind a larger book that pulsed with ominous power. To his dust-tuned senses, the small brown folio glimmered with a haunting, soon-to-be-realized significance. The book’s plain face was stamped in fading dye with the words, Fey Pacts of Ancient Days. Young Japheth quickly retreated to his cell and closed himself away from his fellows. By then, the refugee surge had been beaten back, but the Keeper of Tomes needed finding. Japheth didn’t care if he ever saw the Keeper of Tomes again. He wanted to be left alone with his traveler’s dust and the tome he’d stolen from the forbidden stacks. Within the book he found strange names and properties of primitive earth spirits, ancient and strong. Once, claimed the hoary tome, the beings attached to these names were worshiped as gods. Sadly, remonstrated the crumbling text, Faer�d largely forgotten these ancient Powers. The names in the pilfered tome called to him. And so he read, day in and day out. All would have been bliss, but for a change in his trips on the crimson road. Japheth was approaching the “first bend,” as the transition later came to be called, of his journey. In other words, the traveler’s dust brought him less joy with each use, but his body’s desire for the substance only increased. It was around this time that traveler’s dust was suddenly recognized as being a slow poison, not “distilled joy” as certain Amnan suppliers had successfully and lucratively marketed it. Amn had weathered the Spellplague better than most, and in its aftermath, Amn’s merchants were already making a profit among refugee populations and untouched kingdoms alike. Some cities banned the sale of dust, and its users, easily marked by their eyes, were shuffled off to secure cells where they could reach their journeys’ end in peace, if allowed to keep their supply of dust. When their dust was confiscated, as usually happened out of misplaced morality, the resultant death was an awful thing to behold. Deprived walkers invariably became violent, first toward others, then to themselves. All these things Japheth heard whispered beyond his door by the other acolytes. They knew the dust had him. They saw how his eyes slowly filled with crazed lines of blood. They witnessed how his hands shook so badly at times he could scarcely restack borrowed tomes. They remembered how he had boasted of being a traveler on the newly discovered crimson road. Young Japheth-despaired. He decided to end his life with what dignity he could muster. He decided to take all the traveler’s dust he possessed in one gluttonous mass. He would dash to the end of the road with the speed of a racing hound. The suicidal acolyte’s vision burned as he poured twenty or more grains in each eye. He was catapulted out upon a scarlet plain and saw for the first time a literal road. And he saw its awful terminus. ***** A shouted hail pulled Japheth from his reverie. A man approached along the unlit starboard side of the Green Siren. Japheth didn’t need light to recognize the swaggering figure of Captain Thoster. The captain sported a prodigious hat, a gold-trimmed coat that swept the ship’s deck and a slender, straight sword in a silver sheath. With the sensitivity to magic lent him by the partial dose of dust still sparking through his blood, Japheth saw a translucent, greenish glimmer to the captain’s skin, as if

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