Prologue: The Book

I blinked, watching dispassionately as the blast of Hellfire ripped through my chest. I was fairly used to this kind of reaction by now, to be honest. But then again, most people would try and kill you if you just confessed to eating their boss.

…I understand your confusion. Really, I do. But to be honest, I don't really understand much of what's going on, either. Just a few years ago, I was living a comfortable life with both of my parents in a city of crime. Hell, a year ago, I was actually alive.

I blame the Book, and whatever sick bastard wrote it. I should've known better than to pick up an unknown object that the Lucifer himself threw out. But really, if it weren't for that Book, I would have died beneath this city, alone and terrified.

'Shut up, you drama queen. You know she's adorable. Don't diss the loli Grimoire.'

'Shut up yourself, you dick. I'm trying to tell a story, here. And besides, you don't even know that the Book is a loli, you just think she is.'

'Of course she's a loli! That's how all the anime work! And besides, I'm not the one telling himself stories.'

'It's called a dramatic monologue. It's a literary device.'

'You aren't talking to anyone, though. You're just chatting with yourself while you try to figure something out.'


I suppose I should start at the beginning. Be warned, it gets a bit graphic. But again, living in a city of crime all of your life kind of desensitizes you to that kind of thing.

'—And besides, you're technically still alive, if you think abou- ow! Fuck! What the hell, man!'

'Shut up, Instinct, I'm telling a story. You're ruining my dramatic entrance sequence.'

'...Well fuck you too, then.'

I blinked, eyes opening to see rusted manacles dangling from the ceiling.

It wasn't the manacles themselves that rattled me, but rather the emaciated corpse dangling from it. It looked like my father, but that was impossible. My father was alive and well the last time I saw him. It must be a look-alike. Same with the severed head and ghoulishly contorted body that resembled my mother. They were just there to scare me, like they did in those crime shows.

I stumbled to my feet, walking past the look-a-likes. I saw a room full of torture implements, from those wooden manacle things you see in movies to a wall of various spiked implements. I smiled to myself, appreciating the show despite its' ridiculousness. When I tried walking towards the door, however, I was stopped by sets of manacles on my hands and feet. I glanced down, laughing softly. They were beautifully crafted, those manacles, down to the rust spots and rough patches. Wonderful. Built to scare me, just like the rest of the room. I'll bet those 'bodies' and 'skeletons' hanging from the ceiling all over the room are all fake, too.


I noticed a variety of scars and lesions over my body, smirking to myself. None of them hurt, so they were all obviously makeup jobs. I took a step back, wrapping one hand around my wrist and simply pulling the chain off. My wrist is too small for this thing, anyway, and only an idiot would put an eight-year-old in chains meant for an adult. After removing the rest of my chains, I walked past the room of fake corpses that smelled like rotting flesh and opened the door.


'I mean, honestly.' I giggled to myself hysterically, tugging open the thick steel door. 'It's like they're not even trying.'

I passed by a sleeping 'guard', walking down the hall and taking a left. There was the door to the outside, also conveniently unlocked. Rolling my eyes, I left the shady building behind and stepped out into the streets.

I made it only a few steps before a meaty hand grabbed me by the neck and dragged me down the alley and into another odd scene. A blonde woman was being held down by several large men, and she wasn't wearing any clothes. I tried to look away, since my mother told me that I should never look at a naked woman. These men must just be really mean.

The large man in a suit called out in a coarse voice. "All right, boys. Fun's over."

A chorus of groans rang out. One of the men, a barrel-shaped man with a squished face, glanced down at the blonde woman. "What should we do with her, Boss?"

'Boss' sighed. "What de' ye' think, ye' moron?"

The barrel-shaped man blinked stupidly. "Ooooh."

He picked up a brick, covered in the same muck as the rest of the grungy alleyway. He wound back, and smashed it into the back of the woman's head. The men cheered, laughing and making odd gestures with their hands. The darkness of the alleyway did little to hide their wide smiles.

'Boss' turned to me, his golden teeth flashing in the grey light filtering in from the outside street. He walked over, kneeling before me. His breath stank of something terrible as he opened his mouth and spoke. "Sorry, kid. It's nothin' personal. It's jus'… yo' parents decided ta take somethin' 'at wasn't 'eirs, so I had ta punish 'em. I do have an empire ta run, ya' know, an' if n' I don't keep order, then innocent people gunna end the up dead."

I just stared uncomprehendingly. He sighed, his terrible breath wafting over my face once more. "You're what, six? Eight? O' course yo' can't understand tha importance o' what I did." He stood, towering over me. "But you is in luck, kid. I do try ta have a code o' honor, n' one o' my rules be ta neva hurt kids. Let alone humans such as you. So I'll let ya go today, and maybe yo' can join us if ya eva need some cash, eh?"

He reached into the pocket of his suit, pulling out a clean, white business card. He gestured for the man gripping my arms to release me, and handed it to me. I couldn't read it in the dim light, so I just stared at it. The large man chuckled, adjusting his hat. "We're called da White Collars, kid. We're da boss around dese here parts. I'm the leader of our little ragtag group. My name be Randall Sullivan, but me boys call me Randy Smalls. An' a piece o' advice, free o' charge." He leaned down and whispered in my ear. "There are no good guys in this world. Disease, filth, and poverty are fuckin' everywhere. Selfishness is a virtue, an' 'ose who look out for 'emselves are da ones makin' the big calls. So have some common sense, lad. Eitha' keep yer head down, or shoot fo' da top."

He doffed his hat, before turning and walking out of the dark alleyway, into the dim street light. His men followed him, leaving me alone in the dark alley.

I stood shakily, my numb hands dropping the card onto the ground. I stumbled out of the alley, the tang of blood heavy in my nostrils. I shivered as the cool autumn breeze cut through my thin jacket and chilled me to the bone. My mind refused to work properly, so I just kept stumbling forward.

I could deny it no longer. This was too real for any dream, and that man was serious when he said he had killed my parents.

My parents are dead.

And they're never coming back.

I leaned against the endless wall of buildings, using it to support my weight. The people on the sidewalk didn't bother stopping to help, they knew better than to poke their noses into Naskapi City's nightlife. Not to mention that with my grimy clothes, lurching gait, and obvious shivering, I looked like a grubby orphan desperate enough to pick someone's pocket.

I kept moving, kept shivering, kept pinching myself awake. I had… to keep… walking. I had… to… keep…

I finally ducked into a small alleyway that no adult could fit into, wedging myself deep into the cramped space. My breathing slowed, and my eyes fluttered shut.

When I next opened my eyes, I could hear the sounds of the city waking up. Naskapi is primarily a mining settlement, so most of the city is underground. From above, it seems like little more than an industrial failure. But the rest of the Underworld knew better. Naskapi has one purpose, and one purpose only—mining magical ores. For this reason, the town was started not twenty miles away from the residence of the Maou Lucifer.

I remembered what the man had told me last night, shivering slightly. 'Use your common sense', he had told me. I smiled bleakly. 'Well, in the end, that's all I have left.'

I shoved aside my memories of my parents' deaths, locking them and all other memories of my parents safely away. Naskapi was not a place for weakness.

'Common sense…'

I wanted to go home, but my common sense told me that it had probably already sacked by the landlord. If there was one thing that my parents had warned me about, it was that the residents of Naskapi were not nice people. Common sense told me that the instant word spread that my parents were dead, the landlord would sell everything worth a dime. Father even warned me that—'No, lock it away.' I told myself, fighting back tears. 'I can deal with it later. Emotions are nice and all, but I need clarity. Step one, find work. I need to feed myself somehow, and there are plenty of places around here willing to overlook my age.'

I struggled for a moment, trying to unwedge myself from the thin crevice. I finally wiggled loose, stumbling into the midst of a crowd of pedestrians. I was rudely jostled, bumped around and cursed at as I tried to weave my way through the crowd. I finally managed to duck into a larger alley, taking refuge from the mass of people.

I glanced down the alley, surprised to see it being lit by a line of electric lights. A-ways down, a wooden door was set into the wall. A sign above it proclaimed it the entrance to The Iron Strike. Judging from the name, it was likely either a weapons shop or a smithy. Possibly both. I pushed open the door, hearing a small bell ring as I entered.

I found myself in a small, cozy room lit by a glowing fire. A large man swung his hammer down on a lump of red-hot metal. Ptang. A loud sound rang out as the hammer made contact. The man lifted the hammer, swinging once more. Ptang. Once more the hammer was lifted, once more the hammer was swung. It was a rhythm, one that I dared not disturb. I stood and watched, the door swinging shut behind me. I could feel a bead of sweat rolling down my forehead from the heat of the room. Finally, the man lifted the metal and plunged it into a nearby vat of water. A loud hiss marked the cooling of what I now recognized as a pickaxe.

The man set his work down on a drying rack, before taking off his gloves and setting them on a workbench. He turned to me, a smile on his face. "How may I help you?" He rumbled, his voice surprisingly soft for how deep it was. It was like velvet on the ears, just like Father's—no, keep it contained. You're here for a reason.

I took a deep breath. "E-excuse me, cousin, but, um, would you happen to be looking for an apprentice?"

He raised an eyebrow. "Why do you ask?"

I fidgeted slightly with my torn sleeve. "W-well, um, I'm kind of an orphan now…" 'Calmcalmcalmcalmcalm.' "…And I'd rather find some honest work than become a pickpocket or something."

The large man chuckled. "Well, I'm certainly not complaining. This town needs more honest folk."

I deadpanned at him. "Cousin, this town is a dump."

He shrugged. "I wouldn't say 'dump', but it certainly leaves much to be desired."

I blinked. "You're one of those really annoying optimists, aren't you?"

He burst out laughing. It was deep and full-bellied, making me take a step back in surprise. "Spoken like a true realist. All right, I'll admit, this town is a den of thieves led by a racist baboon with the brains of a concussed sheep. But at least it's honest about it. If you ever visit Lilith, you'll quickly learn why it's called 'the Gilded Crown of Hell'. Here, you at least know who's going to be stabbing you in the back. There, your best friend might well be measuring you for a body bag."

I frowned. "I'll… take your word for it."

His laughter died down, and he looked me over. "You say you need some honest work? I might be able to help you there. You're a mite bit too young to be working in a smithy, but if you ask again in a couple years I might find something for you to do. But for now, I can only point you in the right direction."

He lifted up a sheaf of papers. "See these? They're papers from the desk of the Lucifer himself." He took two off the top, holding them side-by-side. One was a complete document, but the other had the bottom half burnt off. "These are the closest thing we have to news around these parts. The Lucifer knows what a cesspit this place is, so he makes a point to deliver all of his trash and recycling to our town's facility rather than just destroying it all. It's his way of both proving that he has nothing to hide, and letting us know what's going on with the rest of the Underworld. 'Course, he's smart enough to burn his signature off all of the papers he signs, but he still leaves the papers so that we know which ones were signed and which ones weren't."

I nodded slowly. "So… you want me to sort through them?"

He chuckled. "You catch on quick. But yes, it's considered below the gangs of this city to sort through it themselves, yet they still want the information. And if you learn the legal jargon, you can make a killing selling whatever you pick up to the info brokers."

I smiled, feeling a wave of relief. "Great! When do I start?"

He checked his watch. "Now, if you hurry. The doors of the recycling plant open in about twenty minutes."

I pictured the location in my mind, humming in thought. "All right. But, um…" My stomach growled loudly. "Can I get an advance on my first paycheck or something? I'm starving."

A half an hour later, I was at the doors of the recycling plant with my stomach comfortably full. My parents had made sure that I knew this city like the back of my hand—a necessity in case I ever got lost or kidnapped. The smith, who had introduced himself as Von as he watched me hungrily devour a piece of toast, was only a mile away from the plant. I could easily find my way back if I had to.

I took a deep breath, before pushing open one of the large doors. It slid open with a rusty creak, and I stepped through. I was immediately buffed with a wave of sights, sounds, and smells. All around me, machinery worked to break down the products fed into them. I could even smell the sharp tang of chemicals. A loud racket came from the machines. There was a small crowd of people around a large metal bin just to the side of the machines, presumably where the 'paper products' were sorted to.

I approached, wincing as the noise assaulted my ears with increasing intensity as I drew closer to the machines. I pushed my way into the crowd, trying to see if this was the place Von had described to me. Sure enough, the bin was completely full of paper. I glanced around, trying to see what the others were doing. They all seemed to have a greyish knapsack, and they were taking turns perching on the edge of the metal bins to hunt through the papers. The ones they found interesting, they put in their knapsacks.

"Cannae help ye'?" A cheerful voice asked from beside me.

I jumped slightly, turning to see a boy about my age with a grey knapsack on his back. He had childlike features, ragged clothing, and a rather small nose. I nodded slowly. "Yeah, um, I'm new here, so…"

He smiled widely. "Arright, 'en. I'll get ye' all fixed up. Me name's Carn, an' I've been workin' the papers since I was a wee lad."

I tried to return his smile, but it turned out to be more of a pained grimace. The boy seemed to have a rolling accent, very different from the coarse dialect of Naskapi. That meant the kid was probably either lying to me about how long he had been working, or he was a foreigner. "Thanks…er…Carn. Much obliged."

He nodded brightly. "Anytime. Now, first we need to get ye a bag…" He paused. "Er... wait... are ye a boy or a girl?"

I frowned, glancing down at my electric blue hair. It fell to my shoulders, smooth and soft. "I'm a boy. Why?"

He coughed. "Er... It's jus'... yer hair..."

I tilted my head. "My mom always likes... liked my hair like this. She thought it was pretty."

I heard Carn grumble something about her being right as he walked away.

For the rest of the day, Carn cheerfully taught me the life of what he called a 'Revere', or someone who delivered the news of the Underworld. He showed me the basics of 'fancy-talk', and even gave me a few papers of my own. During our off time, in which we waited our turn to sit on the edge of the bin, he told me about himself. Apparently, he was an orphan like me, the son of a Low-Class Devil and a human who had run away together. He had been at this job for two years, and he planned to work in the mines as soon as he could lift a pick. I was confused as to why anyone would work in the Mines, seeing as the conditions were absolutely terrible. He just replied with, 'But that's where the money's at, mate!'

At dusk, I finally returned to Von's smithy. I had a respectable stack of papers in my knapsack, and I proudly handed them to Von in exchange for dinner and a spot on his couch. He just chuckled. "Sure, as long as you don't mind the racket. I sleep during the daytime, and work at night."

I blinked. "Wait, really? But this morning—"

"This morning, I was working to finish an order. After you left, I spent the next eight hours asleep in my bed." He interrupted, turning back to his forge. "If you want to get some sleep tonight, you might want to turn in now."

I nodded, finishing my meal and heading over to said couch. I didn't completely trust Von, but it was either this or the street. I laid down on the couch, closed my eyes, and tried to block out the sound of metal striking metal.

The next few weeks followed this same pattern, and soon enough weeks blended into months. I became quite experienced with picking out which papers would be considered 'valuable information' and which ones were trash. And through it all, Carn, my cheerful Irish friend, kept me company. As the months turned to a year, Von began to teach me the basics of metalcraft. I took to it like a fish to water, and learned everything he had to teach me. I couldn't go for hour-long forging extravaganzas, but I could forge a dagger good enough to sell for several gold.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of my parents' death. I've been keeping my grief over their deaths contained for so long that it's degraded to a forlorn apathy. I've always known that this city is a den of sin, and I was lucky to have my parents for as long as I had. I had learned that 'Randy Smalls' had been telling the truth when he told me that he took his job of keeping the peace seriously. Even if he allowed his men to do terrible things, he made sure every one of them followed the law to the letter. Devil law just didn't happen to cover humans. Don't get me wrong, I still plan to kill the snake bastard, but I do understand why he did what he did.

I sighed, slipping off of the couch and stretching. I couldn't hear the sound of Von at work, so I made sure not to make any loud noises that would disturb his sleep. I snuck into the tiny kitchen, grabbed a piece of bread, spread a glob of butter on it, and headed out the door to start the day.

I was wearing a set of rumpled brown clothes, as well as a cloth mask over the lower half of my face. A pair of tinted lenses were slipped over my eyes, allowing me to see clearly. The Ash had been coming more often, lately, and while some of the city's residents were resilient enough to stand the toxic residue, humans most definitely could not.

I made it to the recycling plant without incident, meeting Carn at the door. He greeted me with a cheerful wave and a steady stream of mostly meaningless chatter. I didn't bother trying to make sense of it, if he really wanted me to know something, he would make sure I was paying attention first. We approached the large bin where the latest papers were being delivered, and climbed over the edge to begin searching through them.

The Ash had taken the lives of most people desperate enough to search the papers, and left only a handful of us to sort through the bins. We had begun shifts—while one group sifted through the Maou's recycling, the other would be selling the previous day's work. The ones who sorted had first pick of the spoils, and we found occasional hidden treasure. My Clearsight lenses were one of said treasures. We theorized that the Maou must have a mad scientist at his mansion, making neigh-invincible magical technology, before promptly deciding that it wasn't what he wanted and tossing it aside.

Using such magitech was a gamble, at best. The scientist was at the cutting edge of research, but there was a very good reason each design was scrapped. My lenses, while allowing perfect sight in any weather, gradually worsened my sight without them. If I wore them all the time, I would eventually become incapable of seeing without them. And that was one of the better finds. Hell, some of them had side-effects so severe that some of the gangs started weaponizing them. There was a pen-like device that microwaved food—and brains, if you stabbed someone with it. There was a strange gem that allowed you to walk through walls, but sometimes left parts behind. There was compass that diminishes one's sense of direction. A leather belt that grants the ability to repel crocodilians. The list goes on, but you get the idea.

Carn paused in his search, glancing up at me. "Oi, mate, do ya' think 'is is a good one?"

I looked up, squinting. 'A Treatise on Greater Value', it read. I sighed. "Nope. Trash."

He sighed disappointedly, tossing it into the reject bin. "Damn. I was hopin' i' was somethin' good."

We returned to our silent work, occasionally placing a sheaf of papers in our bag for later scrutiny. It was nearly noon when I noticed it out of the corner of my eye as I turned to a new stack of papers. I immediately whirled to look, trying to find whatever it was that had caught my attention. Nothing.

I blinked, rubbing my eyes. 'I guess I should let my eyes recover for a while before using the lenses again.' I thought ruefully, turning back to my work. 'They've been playing tricks on me, lately.' I glanced up at one of Carn's cheerful comments, an acidic response on my lips—there! It wasn't my imagination!

I turned, once more seeing nothing. But this time, I was determined to find whatever it was that escaped my attention. Invisibility objects were invaluable here in Naskapi, especially given their incredible rarity. I slipped on my lenses and looked again, but still found nothing. I frowned, trying to figure out what the trick was. Every invisible object thus far had some flaw that had rendered it unacceptable to the scientist, and I was sure this one was no different. I slowly turned back to Carn, focusing my attention on the spot I thought it was. Then, I gradually shifted my gaze towards Carn. The instant I focused on him, it flashed into existence, in the corner of my eye.

I smirked, gradually sidling up to it. I got closer and closer, until I could recognize it as a half-buried book. I shifted papers around, still not looking at it, until the cover was legible. It seemed to be a child's journal, and the title read 'A Dream of Life Eternal'. In that instant, I could feel something shift into place within my mind. I stayed as I was, still not daring to look at it lest it disappear forever. I reached for it, moving my hand quickly so that whatever charm covered it couldn't misdirect me like it had several times before.

Of course, predictably, my hand hit something sharp instead.

I jerked my hand back, hissing, as I felt something puncture my palm and cut clean through several muscles. I turned to see my blood covering the book, and the offending knife hidden in the papers behind it.

'Jesus, who the hell throws a knife in the recycling!' I yelled mentally, hissing. I tore a piece of material off of my plain tunic, binding my wound tightly. Then it occurred to me—I could see the book, now. I turned to see the spilled blood that had fallen on the book begin to disappear. My eyes widened. 'Is it…absorbing the blood? How?'

I reached cautiously for what I now assumed to be a Grimoire, making sure to unbury and stash the knife first. I picked it up, watching as the last of the blood disappeared from its' surface. Then, red lines dyed the cover in the form of a complex magical circle. The title's indented letters began to fill with blood until it was embossed with raised red text. The title now read, 'A Dream Unfulfilled'. Trembling with excitement, I opened the cover. Inside, I saw a cream-colored page of fine paper. Far too fine to be a child's journal, as it initially appeared. As I watched, spidery, blood-red text began to write itself across the pages. It read,

Greetings, current owner of this Book of Magick. I am… well, you may call me 幽霊. I am merely a Spirit of Madness, writing this tale in the language of Balance. If anyone save those of your blood are to look upon this, they will only be able to read it in its' original language.

This is not a Grimoire, as it is far too powerful to be allowed sentience. Instead, it is a Book of Instruction. As the title may indicate, it is incomplete. I would invite he who takes this Book as his own to complete it, should he dare to allow the Book sentience. It is a manual, an instruction booklet, a perfect teaching method for one to learn the ways of the Dream of Eternity.

I have braved the Void itself to learn forbidden knowledge, and my very soul was Distorted by it. I burned everything I knew, everything I had, everything I would be in order to find what I sought. And in the end, the Balance took me. Even now, I cannot comprehend the language of mortals without translation. Yet, in exchange, I learned secrets untold by mortal minds, and gained the Common Sense of Demons.

Fear me. Hate me. I care not. I merely provide the knowledge.

This Book is beyond the Necronomicon for its' potential for the Darke, yet beyond the Books of Heaven for its' potential for the Lighte. Know what you hold, O mortal, before you peer within its' pages. For with this, you become nothing more than a Dreamer in this Illusion of Reality.

Complete this Book, if you dare. I have written the theories and knowledge that I retained throughout my journey of discovery. Incomplete theories that they are, you shall not always know which ones I managed to complete. In fact, I encourage you to take my research in another direction entirely.

But be warned. I will not hold your hand. I will explain nothing in its' entirety, for fear of awakening the Book into a Grimoire.

I wish you luck.

-The Author of Dreams

I blinked, closing the book and tucking it safely away inside my bag. That was a mystery for another time. I returned to my work, pushing the odd book to the back of my mind for another time. "Oh, there ye' are, mate. I thought ye'd left, or somethin'!" Carn called, jolting me from my thoughts.

I snorted. "Nope. I'm just as broke as you are, brother. If not for the gangs' unspoken protection of us Reveres, we'd probably have been raped by now."

He looked puzzled. "Wait… how would 'at work? We're boys, ain't we?"

I chuckled darkly. "We still have holes, brother. And that's enough for some."

He turned pale. "I-I see."

We turned back to our work, continuing on in silence for the rest of the day. Finally, just as we were about to leave, we heard the sirens that warned of an incoming storm. Fortunately, several of the older Reveres were a step ahead of us, and managed to shut and bar the heavy doors. A moment later, the windows darkened and an unearthly howl began to sound outside the secure building.

I sighed, reaching into my pocket and pulling out a small flashlight. 'Might as well start reading that Book.' I decided, finding a spot to sit and digging the small book out of my bag.

I flipped past the first page, and began to read.

Section 3.

I am unsure of how much I recall of the O#%$r &-!l#, so I will record what I can remember here.

An illustration of a complex magic circle below a gleaming sword took up the rest of the page.

Entry one: Fate.

In the Typemoon universe exists a magical configuration called the Holy Grail. It allows one a single absolute wish, should they win a battle royale of deceased spirits. While there have been many conflicts over supposed Holy Grails in the past, this term refers to those specifically based around Masters, usually proficient magi, summoning Servants, Heroic Spirits brought forth as familiars, and meeting in battle until only one pair is left to claim the Holy Grail.

The original Grail was, in reality, corrupted by an evil spirit to be somewhat of a monkey's paw in terms of wish-granting. If one wished for world peace, for instance, it would kill everyone on the planet.

While fictional, this Grail still holds some truth in this world. Hypothetically, one could recreate the effects of said Grail if you had the sheer magical energy required to summon spirits without the grail.

Beyond that, it devolved into unintelligible theories and random sketches.

I blinked, confused. 'Why did it start with Section 3?' I turned the page, and I abruptly realized the problem. The next page said 'Section 2' at the top in small text, and seemed to be halfway through a theory on a completely different topic.

I closed the book, and turned to the first page once more. This time, it was labeled 'Section 1' at the top, and was explaining something about quarks.

I smiled to myself. 'It's self-shuffling. Clever. Now, how would such a book be used?' I concentrated on finding the page I had found first, opening the book to a random spot. Sure enough, there it was. My smile stretched into a wide grin. 'All right, Author. I'll take your challenge. 'A Dream Unfulfilled', eh? That's an interesting title. I wonder what made him unable to fulfil it. Hell, what is a Book like this even doing inside the dump? Wouldn't the Maou make this thing the most protected object in the Underworld? Unless…' I glanced down at the cover once more. 'This thing is powerful enough to fool even a Maou-Class Devil.'

I paused, considering the implications of that statement. 'Holy shit. This thing has a protective enchantment on it strong enough to slip past the Crimson Lucifer. If I complete it, what kind of power will it be able to give me?'

I opened the Book once more, and began to scan each page, not reading any of them, simply memorizing the way each one looked. Closing it once more, I tried picking once at random. To my shock, I could remember each and every detail with crystal clarity. With shaking hands, I flipped to a random page. Sure enough, it was the one I had just scanned.

'Memory spell.' I realized, closing the Book. 'Designed to allow you to never forget any part of the Book. Only once you've read the entire Book can you navigate through it freely. Probably meant to discourage trying out a spell before reading the entire thing.' I chuckled, rising to my feet as the Ash began to clear, allowing weak sunlight to shine through the Ash-streaked windows once more. 'Interesting.'

Carn blinked in surprise, his eyes focusing on me. "Oi, mate, ye' keep disappearin' on me. I know ye're pretty quiet n' all, but this is a wee bit extreme, don't 'cha think?"

I blinked. "Wait, you mean you couldn't see me?"

He shook his head. "Nope. Not a single hair." He frowned. "An' ye' have blue hair! How does 'at work?!"

I chuckled to myself, ignoring Carn and heading for the door.

'Interesting, indeed.'

...What, you thought I'd tell you the entire story in just one chapter? Hell, no. This is only the prologue. It'll be a while before you get to the whole 'heart burnt out with Hellfire' bit.

No, cousin. You don't even know if I survived yet. Just you wait, cousin. Just… you… wait.

'Aaand... cue dramatic exit.'

'Goddammit, Instinct.'