Seth came as close to sight reading Malhablamorung as anybody Morgan had ever met, but it still took several hours of intense work for them to make an acceptable, if stark, translation. Capturing the full emotion in the flowing script was not an available option, they were not the intended recipient.

Aaron my love,

I am sorry that I have avoided you for these years past. I have been laid low and I know that you would have bound yourself to me to help me. I could not allow you to make that sacrifice. There was a cure of sorts but I could never pass this on to someone else. You always said that my need to rescue others would be my undoing and you were right. My undoing was a simple spell invented by some backwoods hedge wizard gone nasty. I was defending a local village from a raid when I met its creator. It was unstoppable. Fortunately this one-spell-wonder met his end before he could quicken his deed.

Now I am dead.

I have finished my true task and locked it inside my books. It was simpler than I thought it would be. I made sure the books would remember you and let you in. I trust you with the secrets I have unlocked but even you will need to follow the path I have laid out to protect them. There was no way to make you an exception.

On these other papers is a formula that will allow a scholar to add a book to my set. Once done the scholar may open the first book in the set. When he transcribes key observations into his book the next book will unlock for him. This process continues until they are all open to him. This way I can be sure that the final book will only open to someone I could have trusted, though it may take them years to finish.

My only other treasure is waiting in the school's slave livery. Without him I would have died many times over without ever finishing what I set out to do. He is special in ways I still do not understand. There is nothing of prophecy or destiny about him but I know special when I find it. Trust, do not fear. Go find him and see if you can help him find his life.

I love you and have stayed away so that I can die in peace, knowing you survive me. Goodbye my love, I will wait as near to you as I can.


The translation sat between them on Morgan's workroom table. There was some sense of violation, as if the dead lovers were close by, disapproving. Morgan guessed, rightly though he would never know it, that somehow Aaron had found out about Korane's illness and bound himself to her without her knowing. He sacrificed himself for her in silence, to help her live for her work. It was exactly the thing she would have never allowed, had she known. In silent accord Morgan and Seth burned the letter and translation and vowed to keep this part of those two lives a secret.

The remaining papers were a singularly strange formula. It went on for six pages of dense diagram and notation. The materials, except for the blank book, were exceedingly common and could probably be found within a hundred yards of the house. Morgan figured the preparation would take several weeks and the execution several hours. The formula was a lengthy progression of odd bindings which were often made and broken several times. That it would connect the target tome to some huge working of sorcery was beyond question. Morgan regretted that he would probably never get to execute it.

“Well this sure fixes us on the menu.” Morgan dropped the sheaf back onto the table. “When I post this, interest in the books should wane considerably. Most of the magi here are after a quick thunk of power, they aren't going to go in for a long haul, especially not knowing about the payoff. Most everybody will leave it waiting for someone else to cut into the meat of things.”

“That sounds like a good thing to me.” Seth's innocence shook Morgan for a moment.

“You don't get it at all. Everyone will go back to ignoring me, depriving us of valuable protection. One person out there probably knows what those books hide. At a minimum they certainly know you opened the last book. They know they may be able to turn you into a shortcut. That alone is dangerous whether they saw the contents of the last book or not. I have no money, title, rank, or position I can use to protect either of us.”

“Isn't your rank as a Magus, or Master, or whatever here at the school going to work for you? Or your position as Archivist, that seems pretty serious”

“I don't have a rank at this school. I have never been able to complete my associate project. That's the reason they let me run the new acquisitions projects at the library. Nobody else wants that job and I just sort of inherited the position after Master Deschen blew her arm off. In the big games they play here I'm not even a pawn.”

Seth wasn't sure he should ask. He just sat waiting for Morgan to continue.

“Look Seth, when I was fourteen I was working in a mine. I was moving a heavy piece of ore when I heard a pebble fall. It was like the loudest sound I could imagine. I looked up at the mountain above my head and knew it was about to fall on me. Without knowing how, I reached out with my mind and pinched together this tiny crack. It took forever for anybody to notice me standing there, staring up at the ceiling, and even longer for them to find someone who could figure out what was happening and fix it for real. I held that mountain up for more than a day.

“That's how I woke to my power. I was brought to this school and tested. I have one of the strongest, most powerful minds anywhere. I am smart, I learn easily, I have an excellent head for ritual. I'm even a nice guy. But I'm a miner. I have the hands of a village idiot. To cast a real, lasting enchantment the target item has to be perfect, otherwise the spell won't close. Unclosed spells, like the ones I keep on the house, stay because the caster leaves a line connecting himself to the spell. If the line is cut or the caster dies the spell quickly fades.

“I was raised a laborer, I've never been able to make a perfect book to enchant.” Morgan stared down at his hands for a moment.

Seth almost uttered “inferiority complex” but held his tongue on that and said “Let's say you do make your book, what rank would you have then?”

“If I made a book, and it were judged adequate, I would immediately hold a rank of Magus Adept. I've published a couple papers on the remnants of the Sunset Wars that might pass for a proper thesis, which would get me up to full Master after a little politics. That's about halfway up as things are measured here. Store of credits or not, there are more than a few projects between me and the top. Besides the faculty council would have kittens before they would promote me directly into their midst, no matter that I have done more research than half of the tenured faculty.”

“When was the last time you tried?”

“I have paper drying now.”

“Well, I think that we can get your book made no problem.”

“I don't think so,” Morgan crossed to a cabinet built into a wall and took out a bound volume, “this is my last attempt. Look at it, it's full of flaws.”

Seth took the book and began a thorough, critical examination. The stitching was straight and even. The leather work was sound. The etching of the leather was even-handed and aesthetic. Inside, the pages were well attached and a clean, bright white. The binding was firm but supple. The glue along the spine was just the right thickness and well set. The latches and seals common to spell books were subtle and strong. It was singularly the most well made book Seth had ever seen.

“I don't understand Morgan, this is an exemplary work, I couldn't match it.”

“But it's flawed. Look at the roughness along the edge of the pages, the nicks in the leather etchings, and the edges of the pages are not really square to the cover. Targets for enchantment have to be perfect or the enchantment will not hold.”

“Everything is flawed somehow.” Seth corrected him, “If things have to be truly flawless then nothing would ever be enchanted. I think you're looking too hard.”

Morgan grunted at Seth, and took the book back.

“I made several of the volumes in my Lady's library. They were not as fine as that book in your hands. She still managed the enchantments.”

“Your Lady knew the secret of creation, she could probably enchant anything, or remake it to her needs.”

“Not ten years ago. Her understanding of creation was nowhere near complete that long ago. The books, I think, were simply adequate to her needs. To their purpose.”

“Adequate isn't enough, the book would have had to be perfect.”

“To her need, perhaps, but certainly not to any absolute measure. My skill at those tasks were far below what they are today. The books were good. The paper was dry without being brittle, the bindings strong, the covers sound, but none of it was anywhere near perfect. I was struggling to achieve passable. Besides, even scraped hides have been made into lasting scrolls.”

Morgan sat down in his chair and looked at the book in his hands. “Then what is it I am missing? What's wrong with me?”

“Morgan,” Seth stood behind Morgan and began to rub his shoulders soothingly, “nothing is wrong with you, you are just being too hard on yourself, and your work. Journals and spell books are about knowledge... and thoughts... and lasting wisdom. Their only purpose is to preserve that. Your books are about your thoughts.”

Seth's voice began to take on a quiet rhythm synchronized with his gentle massage. The words were a paraphrased translation, a true condensation of some key bits of the ritual of enchantment.

“The pages are white to show your thoughts clearly.

“The pages are dry to thirst for the ink and color of your observations.

“The pages are bound to each other to remember the order of your mind.

“The covers protect the pages.

“The covers protect what the pages hold.

“The covers protect your thoughts.

“The latches hold the covers closed.

“The latches hold the covers closed to keep private your thoughts.”

Seth stopped rubbing Morgan's back and started moving silently around the room, keeping his voice level and rhythmic, while he collected things and placed them on the table. Spoken so plainly the ideas were blindingly obvious.

“Look at the pages and see that they are waiting for your words.

“Think about the fibers, how they will swell with ink, how the ink will merge with the page.

“Lines and swirls of thought poring from you into the page.

“They are waiting to serve you.

“Waiting to fulfill the purpose they were made for...”

Relaxed, lulled by Seth's gentle voice and led by the common wisdom of his words, Morgan had a sudden insight. Perfection. Being perfect. Not an absolute measure, but a single quality. The book was perfect. Perfect as a vessel for what he, Morgan, might want to say. With just that perfection the enchantment could be bound forever.

Morgan knew the enchantment by heart. He had been through the ritual a million times in his mind. Without even thinking the words began to flow out of him as his mind reached down into the book. They weren't the full speech. They didn't need to be. Stripped of embellishment and formality the metaphors of power fit together with childish ease.

He found a ghost of a whisper of a memory of Seth within the book. Seth had handled the book just minutes ago, but the book had already all but forgotten. It was the kind of impression you might get from a stone that had been knocked into a stream by the shoe of a horse hundreds of years past. The blacksmith who made the shoe would be remembered by the stone the way the book remembered Seth. Morgan's surprise almost broke his understanding of the book, but instinct and need carried him over the surprise. The imprint was less than might be left over after a formal clearing. The spell washed the last of it away even as he appreciated the oddity.

Each time Morgan thought of a component he should have prepared for the spell he found it near at hand. A candle to consume for its energy, sand to mark time, space, and boundaries. Everything he needed just seemed to appear by itself.

Morgan vrec'd the book and consumed its essence into his mind. He tacked the spell together with the image of the book as he spoke the words and thought the thoughts. In his mind the book was refined and perfected. Every flaw it had was amended away within the boundaries of the spell. The book, in his mind, was perfect, because the book on the table was perfectly suited to his need. With the twisting pathways of power splayed in mind and space complete, he needed a thought, an essential knowledge to key the bindings, and the word that would hold that knowledge and connect the user to the book. His mind recalled Seth and an understanding blossomed in him again. The word came to mind. “Innocence”. As he spoke the word he severed all the connections between himself and the bindings he had wrought.

Candles erupted. Water boiled. Sand melted, fused to glass and evaporated. Most of everything vanished in a balance of arcane chemistry.

He opened his eyes and released the vrec at the same time. On the table the book looked strangely out of focus. Then it suddenly snapped back. It was the perfect book he had tried to make. Complete and perfect. Transformed by enchantment.