Broken Tablets, Part Three
28 December 2004
Henry finally pinpointed the location of this relic shortly after the rest of us had gone to bed, so despite his excitement it was generally agreed that we would set out first thing in the morning.
Where we were going was a cave about two miles from our cabin. It was near a few other small openings in the rocks, and apparently a significant portion of his time researching was learning which cave we wanted and which path to follow once we'd entered. We traveled light; while there was the possibility we would need to spend some time in the cave, Akshainie and I knew we could go an extended period without food and water and Tadzio brushed off any concern but made sure to grab his extra large travel mug for coffee, which meant only Henry had a day's worth of supplies on hand. Akshainie decided to grab a snack on the way, however, and snatched a couple fish out of a brook as we passed. She offered one to each of us, but Tadzio declined and Henry expressed concern about eating raw fish. She shrugged and started eating hers as it was; I heated mine up in my hands before doing the same.
I grew thankful for the time Henry spent in research when I saw how much of a maze the cave was. He had managed to draw up a map by piecing together accounts from various journals and interviews he had found, bought, or conducted himself, and that map led us well through the cave and only made us stop and verify our orientation twice. We finally found ourselves in a dead end chamber, engraved with symbols from all over the world that strongly resembled the markings I found in the cave where I first encountered the Brood. I informed Akshainie of this, and she demanded everyone stop and help record what we found. Henry pulled a digital camera from his bag, taught her how to use it, and then insisted the rest of us press on to the darker section ahead.
As we shone our lights on the end of the chamber, we found a rough-hewn pedestal with a large, dust-covered, leather-bound book. Henry blew it off, and I recognized the shifting letters on the cover.
"This is a replica of the Book of Shadows?" I asked.
"A replica?" Henry replied, turning to me.
"Why are we looking for the Book of Shadows?"
"Remember, when we first met, and I told you there was a rumored tome with all the information we could ever want about demonic forces? This is that book!"
"You seem concerned about this," Tadzio said.
"We could have saved a great deal of time if you had simply told me this is what we were looking for."
"You knew the Book of Shadows was here?!" Henry demanded.
"I know where the Book of Shadows is, and this is not the place."
"Why have you never mentioned this!? How long have you known?"
"I've always known. I...did not know it was relevant. I know where it is, I have never asked what it is."
"The Pope hiding it in his personal library, Bene?" Tadzio asked, leaning back against a wall.
"No, it..." I sighed and rubbed the bridge of my nose. "It does not belong to the Church. It belongs to me."
"You own this book and don't know what it is?" Henry yelled, picking up the book. I noticed a faint glow begin to emanate from the pages but did not have time to react before he grabbed the front cover. "This book contains everything, Benedict! You can track every demon in real time with it, if you can break the code!" He threw the cover open, and just as he went to point at something on the page a bolt of dark lightning erupted from the book and struck him in the chest. The book fell to the ground as Tadzio and I ran over to him. He was unconscious and barely breathing, his shirt torn open and his chest badly burned; the back of his head was bleeding from where it hit the wall, and his arm looked like it was laying wrong, possibly broken. Tadzio began cursing in Spanish as he checked Henry, then turned to me with fear in his eyes.
"I do not think there is a hospital close enough to save him," he said.
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Evidence compiled for use during the trial of Father Benedict de Monte.
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