Tale weaver’s Prompt #29 “Grimoire”
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, / Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore— Edgar Allen Poe, “The Raven”
His relatives were exactly as he had described them. No introductions needed. How different the reasons we all sat in the lawyer’s office. I truly missed Mr. Poe. They truly missed his money all these years.
Mr. Poe was the owner of a bookshop with “many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.” I was his assistant. The pay was special. At the end of the week, I could pick any book as my wages.
His tastes were eclectic. His shelves held Tolkien, and Tolstoy. Samuel Pepys and Anais Nin. Books written about magic and magical books. In a glass case, he kept the most wondrous books: first additions; unknown manuscripts and letters; several ancient books. If the shop was quiet, I heard, a book in the case calling to me in a deep, seductive voice.
I assumed I was at the reading of Mr. Poe’s will because he had bequeathed me a token of his friendship. Probably something from the glass case. I wasn’t really in the room. I was back at the shop, remembering our long conversations on books and authors.
So I almost didn’t hear Mr. Legit say, “And to my special friend, colleague, assistant and a hundred candles in the darkness of my world, I leave “Quoth the Raven”, it’s contents, and funds to be drawn upon when necessary for the upkeep of the shop, or purchase of special books suitable for the shelves. Just be aware of the magic in books.”
That woke everyone up! They variously accused me of taking advantage of a sick old man with dementia. Of forging Mr. Poe’s signature. Locking him in his office with out food or water until he complied.
Above the din, Mr. Legit told the “class” to take their seats and stop the nonsense.
“The will is legal and valid. The codicil regarding future ownership of “Quoth the Raven” was drawn up over 10 years ago. Ms. Wollstonecraft had only recently become his assistant. Before, as a customer, Mr. Poe had long conversations with her.” Mr. Legit was concerned, he admitted: “but the relationship between Mr. Poe and Ms. Wollstonecraft grew stronger every year. Perhaps Mr. Poe had some foreshadowing of this.”
“As his relatives, you have every right to contest the will, but if any of you harass, threaten, stalk Ms. Wollstonecraft, she has the right to take YOU to court. As Mr. Poe’s caring and concerned (not) family huffed off, Mr. Legit presented me with Mr. Poe’s key ring with the Celtic symbol for fair and far sight.
Dazed and overwhelmed, I walked over to the book shop. The key slipped easily into the lock, and there was the familiar squeak of the door hinges. I wrote a new sign for the window: “Quoth the Raven” will be back in operation.” ! wondered how long it would take to do inventory, cleaning, establishing some sort of order to the back rooms where Mr. Poe “lived.” Of course, then there was the problem of who would work for the payment of a book a week?
I made an espresso like a barista on a gift from one of his best customers. I went into Mr. Poe’s office, but could not sit in either of his chairs. Following routine, I settled into the large wing chair. The original fabric was gone. Replaced by several amazing complex quilts sown into place on the chair.
I needed distraction. Some thing to fill the hole of the office without Mr. Poe, and all the worrying I would soon be overwhelmed by. I chose one of the older books: Grimoire: The Celtics and Their Magic, with the subtitle, Herbarium of Healing.”
I placed the book on a low table, and started to read the medieval Latin written in beautiful calligraphy: “No one without recourse shall open and read this tome. For believers and practitioners. Not the naïve.” I mentally said “Oh dear.” and then though of the Celtic symbol on the key chain, and the warning didn’t seem quite as fearful.
It was about Celtic magic. Spells for good; spells for evil. Each chapter contained increasing difficult spells, until the ultimate one: slow painful death described in very bloody detail. I cringed.
The herbarium of plants worked the same way, matching plants to spells. The plants became increasingly difficult to find, or work with. The ultimate, of course, producing slow painful death.
That seductive voice again. Clearer and closer. The Celtics and Their Magic was talking to me. The volume of “quaint and curious lore” turned it’s pages to the section on “Thine Enimyes.
Apparently after spilling a droplet of thine blood, there was a list of spells that could be enacted: boils and pustules; disappearance of hair; facial scar; club foot; lack of an heir. The list continued, with the amount of blood shed, created increasingly gruesome things your enemies could be inflicted with.
I thought of the last nasty confrontation with Brittenee who seemed to think I was interested in/after her boyfriend. She spit out, “You’re not pretty enough, rich enough to go to the same parties, bars, dance clubs as we do.” Her ego and vanity could use a dose of real life where everyone isn’t rich, spoiled, beautiful and shallow, like losing all her hair and a few facial pustules.
A paper cut under my right thumb nail from last week welled up with one drop of bright red blood. Could I have really cast a spell on Brittenee? When I ended up at the same café as Bud, her boyfriend, I asked where Brittenee was. “Hiding at home. She has some mysterious disease that is making her hair fall out, and gets strange oozing bumps on her face.”
Then, I hungrily worked my way through each section. Made several trips to Ireland, sketching the plant in situ and smuggled some home. I hired an assistant, H. Poison Lovecraft, who loved the idea of a book a week as salary.
One morning, after an all-nighter, with my gunge and Goth crew, I truly looked at my face in my ancient mirror: thinner, paler, with flinty, harsh eyes. “Eyes are the window to the soul.” Did I even have one left?
I suddenly became horrified at the things I had done out of spite, envy and evilness. I modified a spell and cast it. Now I haunt the book shop and H. Poison Lovecraft runs it as per my will, drawn up not long after she seemed to sense the soul of the author and the meaning of their tome.
There was the strange burned out-line of a book on a table in the back room. She could never figure it out; she didn’t notice that one book was missing from the case.
Quoth the Raven: nevermore.