Chuck Wendig’s at it again. His challenge is to roll a d20 (or use a random number generator) and get a title.
Knowledge is never ultimately bad or ultimately good; it depends on the person who wields it.
Under the protection of the Medici in early Florence—for the Medici liked the power that came from controlling the collection of the rare and beautiful items—a young magician created a secret book of all he knew in the world, all the dark secrets of the family. He’d only meant to get them out of his head, where they caused him many sleepless nights and a crick in his neck from looking over his shoulder always.
In an airy room, high above the stink of the river, he toiled with a recipe that would remove the secrets from his head and protect them from anyone but himself. With the appropriate ideas, and a dash of flair, he cast the spell.
His Master had always been on at him about his grammar.
But instead of making the book beholden, it emboldened it and gave it a voice. A voice much like that of the youngest daughter of the reigning head of the Medici, in fact. She would have been charmed, if she’d ever known of its existence.
In a flash of premonition, the young wizard realized that this was not a sin that would be forgiven, and seeing as he had no idea how he’d created the spell, he would have no way to remove it. Excusing himself from the house, he disappeared from the city and was never seen again. His name was never known because the idea that he had ever existed had the Don in paroxysms of fury.
The Don had it buried with the Great Don, Cosimo, deep in the family crypt. He put in sound-barriers, had it sealed, but it never strayed far from its mind. In fact, the only time it got near him, it revealed to his wife that he was the one that had made her original betrothed…disappear. So he buried it.
When archeologists discovered the lost crypt a millennia later, they didn’t at first find the book. It’s voice was old, cracked with underuse, and its tongue almost incomprehensible to the speakers of the modern language.
It was one young assistant who finally heard its calling, left when the head archeologists went to examine the exhumed bodies of the old world’s most powerful family. Beneath the decay of centuries, it fluttered its leaf, blowing the softest puff of dust, leading her straight to it.
She held the tome, caressing the ornate leather cover reverently with her gloved hands. It began to whisper to her, to woo her. At first Catherine Mendicino did not hear the words, but could not comprehend what it said; her experience with the written word held no sway with the unique pronunciations of the 13th century.
Gently, the book probed her secrets, relearning the language. Dizziness swept over Catherine, so she decided to call it a day, wrapping the book in protective coverings and putting it into her kit bag for delivery to the laboratory when the dizziness had passed. It was only a block away from the room she was staying in.
Lying in the cool room, a breeze wafting the curtains gently, the book spoke.
“Signora Caty,” it said to her in hushed tones from the bag on the table, “your mind is wonderful.”
Caty sat bolt upright in bed, almost falling off. “Who’s there?” She trembled.
“You have seen so many places. The world is so changed.” The book marvelled, the voice smothered a little by the confining wrappings.
Caty got out of bed, tip-toeing towards the corner of the room where the book lay. She looked out of the windows, behind the curtains, in cupboards. There was no one to be found. A tinkling laughter behind her and Caty whirled.
“Over here!” This time she could see the bag moving about as the book flapped its cover.
Caty was sure this had to be some kind of prank. Scientists were known to do that. She was fairly new to the team. That had to be it.
“Caty, get me out of here.” The bag shifted itself.
“Dio mio!” Caty went to the table, opened the bag and dropped the book on the table like it was on fire.
The book seemed to sigh happily as its pages rustled. “Thank you for freeing me.”
It flipped on its end again, the artwork of the cover facing her. “Now, put away those thoughts of trying to return me to those dusty old professors. This brave new world looks just like what I’ve always wanted. And if you do, I will tell them all about the blackmail you used to get on to the team here.”
Speechless, Caty’s mouth hung open. Her hands worried at her dusty tunic. “You have no proof. And, you’re a talking book!”
“That’s just the secret I will start with, Signora Mendicino. People will believe, eventually. But not if you take me everywhere with you. Let me explore the world, as you have.”
Caty stared out at the cityscape from her window, focusing on the famous dome of the Cathedral of Florence. The afternoon light was soft on her face, her brow furrowed as she chewed on her lip and thought about her next move. She was definitely going to pray at the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore later today for deliverance from her sins, which is definitely what brought this book to her.
“Did you know, you look an awful lot like Lorenzo Medici? Have you looked into your background? There’s definitely him in the shape of your brow and lips…”
Caty looked out the window at Florence. What was she going to do with a chattering show and tell of all her secrets?
“Don’t worry,” the book called to her. “It’s not just your secrets I know… You want to be a world famous archeologist?” The pages fluttered alluringly. “I know where all the bodies are buried…”