Day 19: Disguised Spellbook

Author Jenna Eatough's Flash Fiction Story from Fyrecon's Fyretober Writing Prompt 2023-10-19

During October I am bringing you extra flash fiction or poetry in celebration of the season and inspired by Fyrecon’s Fyretober!

Enjoy my nineteenth entry into Fyrecon’s Fyretober!

Fyrecon's Fyretober Daily Prompt List

1. New neighbors
2. It’s Alive
3. No Exit
4. Walk in the cemetery
5. Door in the wall
6. Mirror
7. Space visitors
8. The Monster Is
9. Anti-magic costumes
10. Skeleton’s battle cry
11. Djinn party
12. Space dwarves
13. Zombie fireball
14. Possessed guild house
15. Lorekeeper’s mask
16. Dragon sight
17. Alien scryers
18. Trick-or-Treating Shapeshifters
19. Disguised spellbook
20. Screaming trapdoor
21. Ghost weaponsmith
22. Jack-O’-Lantern avatars
23. Pheonix light sail
24. Sparkle castle
25. Graveyard pocket universe
26. Sentient wand
27. Haunted Skyhook
28. Pirate space elevator
29. Disguised terraforming
30. The Witches’ Laws
31. Precognizant cats

Bonus Fanged griffin

Nayleen rammed her hands against the shelf to abruptly stop herself at the bookshelf. Running her hands over book spines, she pushed them this way and that trying to locate one impossible to find tome. “Where is it?” She bit her lip. The tome wasn’t in this case. Or worse, remained hidden from her. Shoving the thought away from her, Nayleen whipped about, turning toward another of the shelves she rushed to it. The shelf proved equally disappointing.

What could she do but search though? Her Mistress Laeanna had bidden her to find the tome. Nayleen continued running her hands over the volumes on this shelf, trying to find the one she needed by sight and touch.

“Nayleen” The deep voice rumbled behind her. Nayleen trembled hearing it now. Once, she had enjoyed hearing him speak, back when his voice had rung with amusement, but his joy had died. That had died with Trestie’s fate. After only a sorrowful hollowness had carried in his words which had slowed twisted into a simmering anger. Nayleen stared at her hand, inches from another spine. She might as well have been leagues away. Assuming the tome was even the correct book.

She lowered her hand stiffly and turned as if a string yanked her about by her shoulder. Fordel stood in the doorway a ghost of himself. Nayleen swallowed. A ghost which recalled the man he’d been nearly perfectly, only paler. The clothing. The mannerisms. The stance. Everything else about him appeared the same. Surely if he had truly sold his soul there should have been some outward signs of his change. Nayleen could see nothing.

Their mistress had given Nayleen the warning about him though. A desperate cry which had rung through the air before silence had fallen between their connection. A connection she had not felt Fordel within for some time. There. That had been the change. He had withdrawn, and Nayleen still trusted Laeanna. She’d never steered them wrong.

If only Laeanna hadn’t made the spellbook so thrice cursed hard to find.

Swallowing. Nayleen placed a smile on her face. “Hello Fordel.” Her voice broke slightly, no matter how much she had wanted to keep it steady. As she watched him and the grin on her face felt too feigned. Too rigid. Not the casual ones she used to have around him. Her disease, that was another sign of change.

He stepped through the doorway and into the chamber, the center of Mistress Laeanna’s work and wisdom. Nayleen’s skin crawled as he approached her. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Her mind screamed at her. She may see no changes, but she felt them. Everything in her said that was true.

“Nayleen,” his voice sounded hollow to her still, but she heard the familiar cadences. The familiarity with which Fordel spoke her name. They’d known each other far too many years to not have ingrained ways of addressing each other. His remained the same where her voice had broken. If he’d sold his soul, did he just not care anymore? Is that why he spoke her name easily where she could not? “Nayleen, I’m so pleased you’re here. I need your help.”

She blinked and stepped backward, bumping into the bookcase behind her. Books tipped over landing loudly against their fellows. Nayleen glanced away from Fordel and at the bookshelf nothing seemed about to fall on her at least. “My-My help?” she stuttered. “What could you need my help for?”

Fordel frowned at Nayleen. Not a scowl, just frowned as if his sorrow could not be constrained within him any longer. “I’ve been searching for the spellbook, but I can’t find it.”

“The spellbook,” she repeated flatly, not as a question of which. Laeanna had only one tome any of them meant when referred to as the spellbook. The Mistress Laeanna had many books, true, tut only one was ever referred to as the spellbook. One none of them, even after all their long years of study, had been allowed to touch. In fact, she kept it hidden from them. The same book she’d tasked Nayleen with finding now. The book none of them, in all their years of prying and spying about, had been able to find.

“You will find the book when you are ready.” Laeanna’s voice echoed in Nayleen’s mind. She had never given another answer when they had asked her about the book and when they could glimpse it. The book contained all the spells Laeanna had crafted created through her long, long years of study. Though her age did not betray those years in her appearance. They were Wizards blessed by magic, slowed by its touch. They had time to learn.

Nayleen’s time to prepare had run out. She needed to be ready for the spellbook now. Why had Laeanna told her to find it if she could not? Why issue that instruction in her last cry before Fordel had done… Nayleen did not know what he had done. No, not a long time since she had last sensed Fordel in their connection she realized. Nayleen had sensed him along with Laeanna before the connection had been severed. Was that presence the source of her disease? She wondered.

Fordel stepped toward her again, and Nayleen sucked in a breath, holding it as she pressed her back against the shelf. As if that scant distance could increase the space between them in any marked way. “I need it to bring Trestie back.” Fordel held out his hands to her, pleading.

Nayleen shook her head and pressed her hands tightly behind her back. “You can’t bring Trestie back. I can’t bring her back. Even Mistress Laeanna couldn’t bring Trestie back.” Her voice rose with each repeated listing of an impossibility. Bringing anyone back once lost, as Marim had been, was impossible. They’d all known it when they’d begun practicing beneath the Mistress Laeanna’s tutelage. They’d all accepted the risks.

At least they’d accepted it intellectually.

Knowing you dabble in a form of magic that twists and alters reality in the abstract is one thing. Experiencing it was another. Laeanna had never selected acolytes with ease, though. She chose only those whose skills both in magic and will were equal. A choice made because when one meddled with reality, reality could meddle back.

Trestie had been the third of Laeanna’s acolytes. Their friend. And Trestie and Fordel had fallen in love. Somewhere in the events surrounding their training, their friendship, and their love, Trestie had grown distracted. While she plied her will upon reality, she had missed reality coiling about her until it grabbed her and removed her from existence.

Fordel shook his head, the frown turning into a glower as he clenched his jaw tightly. He closed his eyes closed and didn’t say anything for a moment. When he finally did, his voice was a hoarse croak, “That is what Laeanna told us. But she lies, Nayleen.”

Nayleen shook her head. “I never heard a lie from mistress’s lips.”

“What does one who changes reality do but lie? They make the world what they want. How they want.” Fordel snapped his hand in front of him in a sweeping quick gesture, as if discounting everything they had been taught.

Nayleen shook her head. “Our duty is to protect life, not to destroy it. Laeanna would never knowingly–”

“She would never knowingly what? How many villages did we alter under her guidance? How many lives did we tweak the course of? How many guards, warriors, and ne’er-do-wells have we erased? Helped her erase?” He nearly spat the last word as he stared at her with wide-eyed horror. “I know she told you I sold my soul.” Stopping, he took a step away from Nayleen and wrapped his arms about himself.

As if the distance had allowed her reprieve, Nayleen’s hands began to work again. She unclasped them from behind her and run her fingers over the books directly behind her. The book. Where was the book? She had to protect herself from him. Protection, she knew, lay in the spellbook’s pages.

“The truth, Nayleen. The truth none of us want to accept. We all sold our souls. You, me, Trestie. All of us. We sold them to our mistress for what?” His voice twisted on Laeanna’s title, and Nayleen looked back to him. “We sold ourselves for power at the expense of others. All I want to do now is undo the harm we’ve done. Harm, Nayleen. True harm.”

Nayleen’s fingers brushed against the spine of a thin tome. Too slim to bare much within its pages, but everything inside of her sang when she touched the book. “Fordel, you don’t want to undo harm. Because undoing everything we have done will bring back so much more harm to the world.”

“I… don’t… care!” he sobbed each word in individual breaths.

“I still care,” Nayleen said. She grabbed the book, pulling it off the shelf. The tome changed in her hands, growing and increasing the number of pages bound within. The mistress’s heavy and large tome landed in her arms. Opening it before her, Nayleen breathed in and the pages fluttered, turning of their own accord until they fell still with a spell before her.

“Nayleen!” he bellowed as she glanced over the words. Despair echoed in his voice, but she shoved it to the side. Taking in the only words before her and not the meaning, she heard Fordel race toward her.

But not fast enough.

Not faster than Nayleen could speak. The spell rolled off her tongue and twisted through the air. Air which flowed about her, thunderous and silent. Air which stilled as quickly as it had been riled and with its passing left only an echo of Fordel’s passing as well.

Nayleen raised her gaze from the tome to find the room empty. Fordel had gone. She had banished him.

Nayleen fell to the ground, cradling the book to her chest. In the silence her mind pleaded for Laeanna to return. A thought which she had not acknowledged before in her haste. Surely when the threat was quelled, when Nayleen fulfilled the task that Laeanna had set her with, she would return.

But no one else resided within Laeanna’s halls now. Nayleen like the mistress, ad Fordel, and Trestie had all shared the same power. Laeanna wasn’t here. Fordel wasn’t here. Trestie wasn’t here. Only Nayleen.

Cradling the book, she bowed her head. Within her mind their voices echoed. Trestie’s, Fordel’s, and Laeanna’s. Their teachings, friendship, anger, and sorrow. Their purposes all warred with each other. Each a reality in their own right which remained within her mind. Echoes she’d never be freed from. Nayleen had chosen Laeanna’s path, and she could only hope she’d chosen right.

Be sure to check out all the #fyretober creations.

#fyretober2023 #fyretoberflashfiction2023 #fyretoberprompts2023 #fyretober2023day19

“Fyretober is for everyone who loves to create, and this month we’re looking to see your flash fiction, poetry, and illustrations every day. We’ll be providing daily prompts for the month and want to see what new concepts and wonders you can make with them.”

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