0011 – Gareth: Captivity, Part 5

Gareth woke up with books all over his face. The smell of paper was intense.


“That was embarrassing.” He said aloud, pulling himself upright groggily, shaking the loose volumes off. His fall had dislodged several books from the shelf opposite the study desk. It had also broken the chair. He rolled his eyes at the sheer inconvenience.


“YES. IT WAS.” The book remarked, through the words on its own first page, when Gareth finally opened its cover.


“Why did that happen?” He asked, closing the cover and opening it again, giving the book time to refresh its words in response to him.


“SERMOMANCY TAKES QUITE A LOT OUT OF YOU. YOU DID SOMETHING PRETTY ADVANCED JUST NOW. HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW THIS STUFF ALREADY?”


“This was my first time trying it. Well, no, it was my first time succeeding at it.”


“YOUR FIRST SUCCESSFUL BOOK CREATED A FAMILIAR? ALRIGHT. THAT’S ACTUALLY QUITE IMPRESSIVE.” The book seemed to be showing him some respect, finally. Could books show respect?


“It was the only way to get some answers.” Gareth explained. “I’m trapped in here.”


“SO YOU ARE. BY A SERMOMANCER, IF I’M NOT MISTAKEN.”


Gareth would have spat at the mere thought of Karl, if there had actually been anywhere to spit.


“That’s right. He’s a real bastard.”


“HE PROBABLY JUST WANTED YOU OUT OF THE WAY.” The book explained. “IF HE’D WANTED TO DO ANY REAL HARM TO YOU, HE COULD JUST HAVE MADE YOU EXPLODE. PROBABLY. SERMOMANCY IS PRETTY POWERFUL.”


“That’s why I wanted to learn it,” Gareth stated. “I needed power.”


“AND FOR THIS, HE TRAPPED YOU IN A COTTAGE?”


“I don’t know why he did it. But I need to get out. There’s someone waiting for me.”


“WHY DIDN’T YOU WRITE A BOOK TO LET YOU OUT?”


“I tried.” Gareth explained the process he had been through when writing Escape in vivid detail. He didn’t want to omit anything. The book didn’t know everything, he realised, but it at least seemed to know rather a lot about Sermomancy. It was worth picking its brain.


“OF COURSE IT DIDN’T WORK. YOU USED SUCH A GENERIC TITLE. MOST OF THE CONVENIENT ONE WORD TITLES WERE TAKEN HUNDREDS OF YEARS AGO.”


“That’s what I thought. The language of the Names – it’s divined, not invented, isn’t it?”


“YES.”


“So there can only be one book for each Name?”


“THAT’S RIGHT. AND AFTER MILLENNIA OF PEOPLE WRITING THEM, NAMES ARE A LITTLE THIN ON THE GROUND. MODERN SERMOMANCERS AREN’T ANYWHERE NEAR AS POWERFUL AS ANCIENT ONES. SPECIFIC, WORDY NAMES DON’T HAVE AS MANY POTENTIAL APPLICATIONS.”


Gareth nodded. He’d reasoned this much out for himself. “Is there a way to know which Names are taken?” He asked.


“IT SHOULD BE INSTINCTIVE. DIDN’T YOU GET AN INKLING WHEN YOU WERE WRITING ESCAPE THAT IT WASN’T GOING TO WORK?”


“No,” said Gareth. “But when I was going to write one with my own name in the title, I knew then.


“OF COURSE THAT WOULDN’T WORK. DON’T BE STUPID. THAT WAY, ONLY YOU WOULD EVER BE ABLE TO USE THE BOOK. THAT’S CONTRARY TO THE SPIRIT OF THE WHOLE THING.”


Suddenly, Gareth understood something vital. “Wait. So if I can get my hands on someone else’s books, some long-dead mage’s library, I can use all of them?”


“EXACTLY.”


He took a breath. This could potentially change everything.


“Do you know of any such books? Of any such libraries? That I could reach, and take the books for myself?


“THAT VERY MUCH DEPENDS ON WHERE WE ARE.”


It hadn’t even occurred to Gareth that he might not be in England anymore. Beyond the general look and feel of the cottage and its surrounding scenery, he had no indication of his actual location.


“I think we’re in England,” he explained. “But I’ve got no way to be sure.”


“WELL, UNTIL YOU ARE, THERE’S NOT MUCH OF A POINT IN DISCUSSING IT. YOU SHOULD PROBABLY FOCUS ON GETTING OUT OF HERE.”


“How?”


“YOU’RE A SERMOMANCER, AREN’T YOU? LOOK AT YOUR SILLY GREY ROBE. YOU EVEN LOOK LIKE A WIZARD, DESPITE ACTING LIKE SUCH A SIMPLETON. YOU WROTE A FAMILIAR ON YOUR FIRST SERIOUS TRY. DO YOU REALLY EXPECT ME TO BELIEVE THAT YOU CAN’T WRITE A WAY TO OPEN A DOOR?”


“Why are you so rude?” Gareth asked, hotly. His gaunt cheeks were a little flushed.


“MAYBE BECAUSE YOU WROTE ME TO BE RUDE. IN THE STORY YOU MADE UP ABOUT ME, I WASN’T VERY NICE TO THAT LITTLE BOY, WAS I?”


“It’s that exact?” It was very fortunate, he realised, that he hadn’t written anything about the book tricking, betraying, or abandoning the boy. It may have been rude, but it had always been helpful and loyal.


“YES. SO MAYBE NEXT TIME YOU WANT TO PRACTICE SOME SERMOMANCY, YOU SHOULDN’T BE SO SARCASTIC AND ARROGANT. LOTS OF PRACTITIONERS HAVE MESSED UP BY CUTTING CORNERS.”


“We often give our enemies the means for our own destruction.” Gareth quoted.


“EXACTLY. SO BE CAREFUL, AND NEXT TIME, DON’T ACT LIKE SUCH AN OBNOXIOUS MANCHILD WHEN YOU’RE DOING MAGIC.”


“Oh, sod off. I’m going to get some sleep.” Gareth was about to lose his temper. Considering the book represented, quite probably, his only way out of this situation, he decided to walk away before he said or did anything he might regret.


How long had it been since he had slept? Well, maybe fifteen minutes, actually. But somehow, fainting didn’t seem to have quite the same restful qualities as actual sleep. The thought of leaving the fallen books scattered on the study floor irked him, but not enough to actually do anything about it. He was too tired to even bother himself with bending down to pick them up.


It was funny, Gareth thought, as he slipped out of his robe, readying himself for bed. He could almost feel the anger emanating from the closed, still book, even in the other room.


“Such an advanced familiar!” He gloated, inwardly, as sleep took him.

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