Carl was on a mission to right wrongs. He had been set the task of restoring the balance of good and evil in a far-off province. To enable him to do this, he was armed with decades of training and a singular weapon, magic in the form of a book. He travelled long and hard to reach his destination, as he neared the heart of the disturbance he prepared himself for the task ahead. Something had broken through reality and skewed the levels of evil in the surrounding area. All sorts of abominable things were happening as evil set about good with horrible consequences for all involved. He gazed upon the city plagued with an imbalance of evil trying to identify the source of the trouble. There… an abandoned building near the centre, perhaps once a religious place. That was the nexus, in some indefinable way it looked wrong. It wouldn’t hold steady in his vision, it was as if it was shimmering, subject to some kind of heat haze. He untied the leather thong holding the book closed and perused its pages for the right words to say.
The Book of Power was a curious volume. It had a wraparound cover of tooled leather, secured by a thong. Only those with knowledge of the ancient arts were permitted to untie the thong and unfold the cover to reveal the codex within. But to be allowed to actually open the book itself… well, that required countless years of tuition under the supervision of a master before that privilege was granted. What secrets lay within the tome were known by few and were never discussed lightly. This particular volume was a one-off, small in size it was a portable abridged version of the text. All other known editions were monstrous volumes and kept securely chained in their respective libraries to prevent access by unqualified scholars. That and to prevent them escaping into the wider world, whether of their own volition or by human agency.
This Book of Power had been designed to be easy to carry. Its function was to allow an adept access to the words of power as he or she travelled abroad. If there was a disturbance in the balance of good and evil a suitable adept could be chosen, given the book, and sent out to reset the status quo. This had rarely happened in its long history. Usually it was kept locked up in a metal case and chained up alongside its weightier siblings in the sacred library at the heart of the order. It owed its existence to an unfortunate incident that occurred almost a millennia ago when the balance had been disturbed. An adept had been sent to correct matters but had been unable to recall the precise wording required and had almost perished as a result, an entire kingdom was lost in the ensuing conflagration. Because of this great tragedy it was decided that a more mobile version of the book was needed. Creating and editing the new version was difficult and took many years of work and experimentation. At least two adepts lost their lives during the creation of the abridged volume, and numerous others were injured. It was discovered that editing the text was a tricky task, omitting the wrong word could easily result in an unstable book that could explode, or worse, turn on its reader.
The right words, said in the correct order, could have a remarkable effect. Depending on the words chosen they could banish evil or increase good, whichever route was followed the results were the same, a restoration of the balance. Carl chose his words with care. As he studied the Book of Power different combinations of words came to mind. He decided that the most effective way of dealing with the imbalance was, in the first case, to rid the city of evil. Once that was done he could then consider whether good needed a boost to bring the situation back to normal. He found the phrase that fitted the circumstances towards the end of the book. As he read the words and rehearsed them in his mind, he felt the book vibrate in his hands. The book wanted release. It wanted the words to be spoken aloud, not just read. It was only when spoken that they could attack the problem. But Carl had a slightly different perception of what went on as he studied the words in advance of speaking them. He felt that the repeated reading of the words of power increased their power, strengthening them, so that when he finally uttered them that the result would be that much more effective.
At last Carl was ready to unleash the words of power. An eerie silence settled over the city. When he eventually spoke the sound of his voice was overpowering. All who heard it cowered in fear. The words themselves were indistinct and sounded like no language known to man. As, indeed, they were in a language known by none except those adepts trained to read them. They were words that came from beyond our reality. Words belonging to entities beyond man’s understanding. Were they gods or were they demons? None could tell. They were words that had been studied for aeons by a select group of scholars. Painstakingly learnt, it was only in recent millennia that they’d been laboriously set down on vellum. As his words faded away the silence returned only to be broken by the sound of collapsing masonry. The build that had earlier caught his eye ceased its shimmering and came into sharp focus. Abruptly it collapsed into itself becoming a pile of rubble. For a moment it appeared as though it was on fire but what looked like smoke soon settled as a cloud of dust. All was quiet again until the sounds of people, laughing and crying, began to be heard. All was well again.
Carl, his mission complete, turned and set off back the way he’d come. His journey home was at a more leisurely pace. As he travelled he reflected on a job well done and the power of the book. He was looking forward to returning it to its rightful place, locked up in the library. As these thoughts passed through his head, he felt the book move around in his satchel as though fluttering to be free. It seemed to him that the book would rather not be returned to captivity. Well, it wasn’t his decision to make. His only remaining task was to see it safely back in the library, ready for the next time it was needed.
Written in response to the Creative Writing Ink July 19th writing prompt competition