Saloondrian Short Stories, by Blake Propach
Unnamed Curse by Licheng Mai
I write this now in the case I do not return. The spell was far more powerful than I expected. The warnings are not enough, could never be enough to prevent the foolhardy from traveling here. If you are reading this now, know that it may already be too late, that you must retrace your steps immediately, exit this library, and never return. I have cast a strong spell of my own to ward off the greater effects of this cursed air in the surrounding area, but I assume it will not last until you find this book. I implore you. Turn back while there is a chance you still can.
You read now the diary of Ul-Darsist Gavin, renowned Saloondrian warlock. The magics I have mastered fall entirely within the ordained lifeblood pact boundaries outlined by the Sorcerers Guild. This is rare among warlocks, for better or worse, but has granted me the unique opportunity to be a certified consultant for Barrelmouth’s city counsel in its pursuits of utilizing the darker arts.
This tangent is irrelevant to my current predicament. I feel my mind wander like it has never before. Like it is no longer my own. I must write quickly before I can write no more.
I came to this library with a singular goal, to succeed where others have failed. To purge the curse, to free the stones and open up a forbidden sect of knowledge. I came to learn. And learn I have. That some secrets do not want to be uncovered. That some horrors are too terrible to describe, so we make up stories to cope with the fundamentals of the misery, to explain them in ways we can understand. I repeat this now, perhaps for the final time: do not go where I have gone. Do not do what I have done. The curse is far stronger, far eviler than we could ever have imagined. If it is let out of its prison, all of humanity is doomed.
The library is not of books, but of stones. Ancient, magical stones of geological power. A branch of magic not understood even in its fundamentals. Stones which cause sickness, disease, stones which by proximity can maim or even kill, can drive men mad. It is said in some ancient texts uncovered in the Plague Lands that geomancers once ruled an empire, an empire crafted without the aide of other magics. The timeframe for such an empire is not in line with our own. If such a place existed, it existed within the curse of the Plague Lands, was built and lost to time before any Saloondrian discovered it.
Whoever constructed this library knew of geomancy, or at least understood the contents of its halls. Rooms upon rooms sealed in hardened liquid stone, metal walls and faded warning signs. We on the outside thought we knew better than the warnings. There are only so many ways for me to write that we were, that we are, and forever will be wrong.
I remember it so vividly that it is as if it still happens now before me. I may not be long for this world, but I will relive this to the very end, I am certain of it. A man, stumbling from the ruins. I called out to him. He did not hear me. I approached to find no man, or at least, no human soul, just a husk, skin stitched to bone. At first, I assumed zombification, but no necromancer could do this. No necromancer could be so cruel.
He had turned to me then, and outstretched his hand. I reached out and took it, not understanding. And take it I did, hand from wrist, pulled off of him like squeezing a stick of butter. I still feel the flesh concealing and melting in my hand, the bones splintering like cubes of salt, crumbling to dust as I looked on in horror. The man, if he was that, seemed not to notice, his existential pain having long ago reached a point beyond which losing something as inconsequential as a limb could not add to his torment.
I stepped back and he fell forward, his balance apparently thrown off by the new distribution of his weight. I would like to say I buried him, for he deserved at least that, but there was nothing left to bury. The very instant his body hit the ground, it vanished, melting or vaporizing, I cannot be sure because it was too fast to tell. But he was no more, no more than a stain on the mosaic earth. I do not know exactly when his body became a corpse, but I fear it was many days or weeks prior to our meeting.
There is a myth that the library is safe to enter, a myth I had intended to investigate because it seemed at least based in truth. After all, there are no bodies. All across the Plague Lands, it is the corpses that indicate a local’s danger. It is the bones that tell us how much we should fear the guardians of that area, be they disease, demon, or beast. But the library has no bones. I repeat this. The library has no bones.
If this book remains, which I no longer can be certain it will, I must insist there has been no trick. Take it so others may read it, as far from here as you can. I know not the dimensions through which this curse holds influence. Perhaps nowhere is far enough. Perhaps we are already doomed.
I do not know what will be left of me. Already I feel my hands begin to shake. I can not move more than a few steps without taking rest. I have touched the stones. After learning nothing, I have felt them, held them, cursed myself to death. I will have no bones. None who enter here may keep them. The stones claim us in our entirety. I am crawling between pen strokes as close as I can to the entrance hall, that whoever finds this will have as much a chance as possible to escape. That you may keep your bones.