Glass shattered against the cavern wall, enhancing dull stone with a dark shine. The thick fluid made sluggish progress down the unhewn angles, which jutted and thrust themselves into the cavern with perverted geometry, and lured the eye to plumb unwholesome cracks and crevices for knowledge which man should not own, as shadows danced in lurid relief where thrown by the hissing flames arrayed around the arcane lab.
“Vyssith!” The haggard sorcerer’s embittered face contorted in a mask of disgust as epithets flew from his lips in the black language of the Forgotten. “Ek reth e’l vrei k’th ctholin vagh!” The hearth flames behind him howled beyond the confines of their stony prison, black and malevolent with the echoes of his fury.
All around lay scattered the evidence of his labors, the hand-scrawled essays and meandering notes, whose logic vacillated somewhere between cosmic insight and furious incoherence, piled each upon another with the haphazard organization of a mind that sees only order within chaos. They crawled over tables and benches, congregated in alcoves, and shuffled incessantly around the glowing beakers, tubes, and alchemical objet d’arcanum that occupied the sorcerer’s cramped work space.
Hand-crafted vellum whispered beneath the wizened hand groping so unceremoniously through their number for a sheet he knew must be among them.
“Theassyf kek vrei ath!”
Hidden beneath the dark leather of a blasphemous tome, the unutterable name of which was synonymous with the dead, peeked the note which he so desperately sought. Watery, bloodshot eyes perused the indecipherable scratches and bizarrely elegant swirls before finding what he needed. In a manic haze, he drifted to the table which served as his desk, and removed the antiquated quill pen from its inkwell, habit alone driving his hand to tap the tip against the well’s stained rim.
The quill’s nib scraped against the pale vellum as he scribbled in the weird language of his masters. Straightening from the desk, he listened as unheard voices slithered through his thoughts, licking at what remained of his soul with a wanton hunger. Nodding to their unspoken commands, he bent to the table, and, wetting the quill, added to the note in his own tongue.
“The formula is incomplete. Without the essence intact, the skin cannot be used to bind the Word. I must attempt again when the village is quiet and has had time to forget its loss. It will not be quality enough for The Book, but the vellum from his hide will be exceedingly fine; I will harvest it for myself.”
Setting aside the quill, the old man took up the crescent-shaped lunarium and began to sharpen it against a smooth strip of stained leather. As he approached the child’s body, stretched tight across a frame not unlike the herses used by other membrane makers, but which was larger and more sturdy than its counterparts, he began to hum an odd lullaby he remembered was sung to him when he had been about the same age.