His fingers brush over the leather-bound spines of the ancient tomes. The cracked and worn binding is rough beneath his fingertips. Its ridges and valleys read like a road map of the book’s revered life which he reads as he passes slowly by. The arcane knowledge contained within speaks to his soul.
Every once in a while, he stops, hand poised on a dust-covered volume and gives a cut nod to the acolyte following at a respectful distance behind. The young boy scurries forward to snatch it from the shelf as the old mystic continues on his way.
Through narrow windows, the dancing flames of ceremonial fires illuminate the chamber. Shades of orange and red light cast elongated shadows across the stone walls. The old man doesn’t notice. His blindness has been with him since birth; a trait shared by all who hold the office of Collector. Still, he gives a wry smile at the muted chanting that pervades the inner archive.
The pacing continues until seventeen tomes are chosen and gathered. The acolyte touches a hand to the Collector’s shoulder before taking him by the wrist. The old man follows his outside.
The rhythmic chanting builds in intensity with each step. They are eager to learn the word of the gods. The Collector shares their desire.
Heavy doors open with a groan and a soft breeze caresses his face. The smell of the burnt offerings hangs in the breeze.
The acolyte walks him forward into the warm night air and guides him to the first of the podium’s seventeen steps. As he climbs, the chanting builds reaches its crescendo as he reaches the summit, more a cheer now than a chant. The first of the tomes is pressed into his hands and he raises it high above his head. He knows without having to see that every eye is on him, on the book in his grasp.
He lowers it and with a whispered prayer, stands it on its spine.
The book falls open. The chanting dies to a whisper.
The Collector points a gnarled finger at a random sentence and the acolyte reads in a booming voice:
‘On the seventh day…’
The process is repeated.
‘…of the seventh year…’
‘…A challenger will arise to besiege the throne of the Beloved King…’
‘…A great battle will be fought…’
‘…Many thousands will be lost…’
‘…A great evil, dark and perverse, will descend upon the land…’
‘…The Beloved King will ride out…’
‘…and, with poisoned arrow, be cut down…’
‘…to die in untold agony…’
‘…at the feet of the Evil One…’
‘…The challenger, not content to hold just the throne of the kingdom…’
‘…will scale the bodies of the dead…’
‘…and proclaim war on the heavens…’
‘…He will beat on the gates of the divine lands…’
‘…and demand the gods acquiesce to his claim on divinity…’
‘…The gods will laugh and ask of him the divine question…’
‘…”Do you dance, Mr Darcy”‘
The chanting ceases.
B is for Bibliomancy
Bibliomancy is a method of employing sacred books (especially specific words and verses) for ‘magical medicine’, for removing negative entities, or for the purposes of divination.