The cracked leather binding, worn with age stood apart from the new canvas surrounding it. The embossed text was inlaid gold foil centered between pairs of ribbing along the spine.
The library smelled of musty, old books, but the book I sought stood out like a beacon among rubble. Its red spine glowed in the light, the gold leaf lettering glittering like a long-lost treasure in a place where everything else was in shadow.
The book lay there on the dark-stained table, its red leather cover flat against the sheen of the polished surface. It seemed to pulse with the energy of a thousand ghosts, all wanting to burst forth from the limits of the pages. He closed his eyes and shook his head—he must be seeing things—and the book looked like a normal, if ornate, bound volume.
When Liliena reached out to touch the book, it sent sparks to her fingertips, electrifying her body. She hesitated, but rubbed the ribbed spine with her forefinger before pulling the book, ornately foiled with a design of a long snakelike creature with a ridge of spines on its back and with four feet. She almost dropped the book when the dragon—that’s what the scholars called it—seemed to breathe fire and wisps of smoke puffed out from the cover. What magic was bound to this book! There was only one way to find out. She found a nearby table and lit a ten-hour candle. This was bound to be a long night.
Leon’s shoulder sagged under the weight of the pack. He shifted the strap to his other side. It didn’t help much. Why was this so heavy? It didn’t feel this heavy when he first packed the bag. He thought he smelled smoke. Was that possible? His back felt suddenly hot as the book inside the canvas pack burned through. The contents of the pack stayed in place, as if held in place by magic. The book, however, laid on the ground, the foil dragon pulsing and glowing. If Leon didn’t know better, he would have thought the dragon actually moved on the cover. Then a wisp of smoke rose from the dragon’s mouth. He was sure he didn’t imagine it. Smoke and heat from a book, but it didn’t burn. This needed to be hidden away in a dark place no one would ever find it. He knew just the place, but the way was dangerous.
It was just one volume of many, stored in the head of Jiun. But it seared her from the inside. She had been born with the ability to store entire libraries in her memory for access later, but this book with the gold-inlaid red cover seemed to be burning away every book around it. She flailed in her mind, trying to pull it out—trying to discard the burning volume. Anyone who saw her would think she was concentrating in earnest. Just as Jiun’s internal library was about to burst in flames, she grabbed hold of the book and pushed it out of her mind. She felt a sharp pain in her eye and winced as a burst blood vessel spread across in a tight red firework. She was alive! But what had just happened? Maybe the witchdoctor, Eliin, knows, thought Jiun as she strode to his tent.
Tome of agèd leather worn, Inside a page was ne’er torn. Gold serpent wrapp’d in scales Blood dripp’d from teeth and nails.
The scrivener put the finishing touches on the first volume of his sacred tome of dragons. Right now, it was just a stack of folios, ready to be bound. He would send it off to the royal leatherworker to bind it and decorate the cover with gold leaf. He fell asleep. He dreamed he was a dragon, red and gold scales glittering in the high sun. His languid body whipped and curled like a banner caught in a gust of wind. He was free! ¶ Then something bizarre happened. He felt like he was dissolving into nothing. Then he realized his tail up to his back haunches had already disappeared. ¶ The scrivener started awake. He tried to feel his body, but he found he couldn’t move—he had become the cover of the book. This had been the warlock’s plan all along.
The dark tomb was buried beneath thousands of years of rock and dirt, but the ancient tome of dragons called to anyone who would feel its pulse. Scholars called the high-reaching tower the Heart Stone because it seemed to have its own pulse that attracted the hearts of men and women from all across the world. There was nothing here but the monolithic tower—at least nothing that anybody could ever find—until Kaitlin came along.
The fishermen pulled the net in, laden with fish and sea flora. Something caught Jamie’s eye: a red book that seems to shimmer with its own heat. He drew near it and saw the pages had not been damaged by the immersion in the sea. Strange, he thought. But then he remembered stories of some ancient books that scholars of old had hidden through the world. Their dangers had been long forgotten, and Jamie couldn’t remember what made this book so dangerous. How could it be? It was so lovely with the golden-scaled serpent appearing to writhe. Its eyes looked like red rubies set in the gilded gold face pressed into the leather that felt like soft skin. What was this book? He shrugged it off and tucked it under his arm to hide it, abandoning his work of harvesting fish. He didn’t hear his captain yell his name repeatedly as he stepped below deck.