The Wizard Moridan ducked away down the darkened corridor. He could hear the sounds of combat behind him and felt a momentary pang of regret at running away, but he swallowed it down and told himself that they’d be okay without him for a few minutes. The only reason he’d told them he’d go along with them into the belly of this abandoned temple was because of the legendary Gardav Codex, lost and locked away down in this dungeon in ages past, and they knew it. Algrin had even seen him slip away and he hadn’t said ‘no.’ He was the closest thing to a leader their group had. Granted, he had been fighting off two fierce Kobold warriors and keeping an eye on another wounded one, but Moridan was sure he’d understand. He was closer to the legendary Codex than he’d ever been, closer than his master or his master’s master. He couldn’t have stopped even if he wanted to.
Any doubts that the legend was nothing but wind and the ramblings of senile poets went away the minute he reached the hole in the floor near the end of the corridor. The trap door had long since rotted away, but he could sense, nearly smell the magic wafting up from below. If he hadn’t taken a nasty bite from the tunnel rats that had swarmed them at the entrance, he would have jumped into the hole, no matter what was down there. Now, he forced himself to walk slowly, professionally, like the experienced wizard that he was, and not like an excited little boy who’d just lit a candle with a snap.
The Gardav Codex. His Master Allerius had barely ever mentioned the Book, and when Moridan discovered the reason was because he barely knew anything of it, he decided that his life’s work was to find this impossible book.
“The very secrets of the Universe!” he exclaimed one night, after one or ten too many mugs of elderberry wine.
“Spells, Master?” young Moridan had asked. The cloud of vapor that accompanied his scoff was enough to knock him off his stool.
“Not spells. The stuff to make spells. The stuff to create magic. The very secrets behind every spell we ever will cast!”
Now, Moridan the Wizard stood in the tiny alcove off a forgotten cellar in a long-buried tunnel beneath a lost temple, and he knew he was finally here. Sitting on a dusty reading stand , like it had just been left a minute before, was the Book. Its pressed leather cover, embossed with arcane symbols in gold leaf, looked fresh and gently used, though there was at least a century of dust covering it. A scrap of parchment lay on the shelf beneath the lectern but he wasn’t concerned about that.
He barely could bring himself to touch it. He wasn’t even sure if he could touch it. For him, a mere mortal, to place his hands on the foundation blocks of the universe…
One of the two Dwarven warrior brothers he was traveling with yelled down from above. “You still alive or did you trip on your robes again?”
He snatched the book off the lectern and shoved it in his satchel. The top edge stuck out but he would worry about that when he had a second to savor his find again. Universe-shattering discoveries in the world of magic was one thing, but a being left behind in the shadowy dungeons of a haunted temple was something entirely different. They weren’t quite out of the large room he’d left them in, but the other seven he’d come with were mostly patched and packed and ready to move on.
“About time you came back, Mage,” Algrin grunted. “You picked a hell of a time to leave.”
“I threw a fireball at them,” he whined.
“Singed my beard,” one of the Dwarfs said.
“Singed my breaches,” said the other.
“I had to make sure nothing happened to the Book,” Moridan said. He started to tuck in properly into his satchel and Algrin snatched it away.
“What, all your fuss for this?”
He flipped it open, and over the sound of Moridan gasping and having several different kinds of conniption fits, read a few lines at random.
“‘If the target fails his saving throw, the spell immediately takes effect.’ What is that supposed to mean, Mage?”
Moridan tried to snatch the book away but Algrin held it over his head, which wasn’t very hard for him to do. He stretched up to read again.
“‘Magic items need to be invoked by a power word.’ Sheesh, that’s not very secret. ‘When the magic user is trying to discover what the word is, he rolls d100 against his…’”
Moridan jumped up again and snagged the book away. The others looked vaguely disappointed as he brushed it clean and tucked it away properly.
“Looks like gibberish and horseshit to me, Mage.”
“It is the very building blocks of our world, you idiot. One could use this book to create one’s own realm.”
“Great. Just what I always needed. Do you know what any of that crap means, though?”
“No. Not yet. But I will figure it out.” He straightened out his robes and tried to look impatient. “Now, can we get out of this dungeon? It’s been draggin’ on forever.”