Alonzo Higgins hadn’t had it. While he wasn’t always the best supplied when it came to magical tomes, Arrens had held some hope that he – the last of the rare book dealers he knew of in Stormwind – would be able to help him track down this book that was turning out to be little more than smoke and rumors.
Still, if it was rumor enough that the demons were talking about it, he’d take the chance and keep an eye out. Something that powerful didn’t come along but every once in a great while, and even if it didn’t turn out to be all that it was cracked up to be, the school’s rare book collection could always use a new tome or three, and his advanced languages students could use it for translation practice. There just weren’t that many good grammar books for Abyssal these days, and most of the Demonic ones were either too basic for advanced students, or contained little more than various kinds of creative swearing.
What Alonzo Higgins did have, though, was a lead. It was a bit of a long shot – something called the Magical Rogue, or so he thought. He wasn’t really sure, and he couldn’t give an exact location except “in one of those alleys in the Dwarven District”.
Arrens put the time at around 3:30 – plenty of early June daylight left before he had to worry too much about what else might be skulking about in the alleys behind the various shops in the Dwarven District – and headed towards the smog that perpetually occupied the northern corner of town. /Someone/ in Stormwind had that book, or his demons were all in a tizzy about nothing.
Two hours later and he was sure his robes were going to need a thorough airing out before they didn’t smell of old motor oil. And nobody had ever heard of a shop called The Magical Rogue. He turned down a final alley, hoping that this might contain the shop he was looking for, and came to a typical dead end. Arrens leaned against the wall… and promptly fell headfirst through a false doorway.
“Afternoon, Mister…. er…”
A wiry blonde man with a shambling grin peered down at him.
“I… erm… yes. Well. I’m Arrens Caltrains. I’m looking for The Magical Rogue.” Arrens peered back, attempting to fix his skewed robes.
“THE Arrens Caltrains? I had no idea I’d made the ranks to be sought after by one such as you, your esteemed professorship. As for the Magical Rogue, you’ve found him.”
“Hmm? You mean you can show me where the shop is? I’m looking for a rare book.”
“Ain’t no shop, sir. Just me. Call me Zable. I’m the magical rogue.”
“I wasn’t under the impression that rogues were particularly magical. I thought most of your work was done in the fairly concrete domain of knives and poisons.”
“Any sufficiently skillful bit of thievery is essentially indistinguishable from magic, as I figure most folks who get their pockets picked have figured out. Anyway, they call me that because I find things. You’re looking for a book?”
“Yes. A fairly rare book, probably in Demonic, though possibly Abyssal. I’m not particularly sure even of its title, only that it exists, and there is supposedly a copy floating around Stormwind.”
Zable peered at the professor in front of him, as if sizing him up.
“Don’t strike me much as the Demonic sort, if you don’t mind me sayin’ so, sir.”
“I am a trained warlock, if that’s what you mean.”
Zable shrugged. “Don’t much matter to me, if you’re willing to pay the right price for it, I guess. It is pretty rare.” He carefully unlocked a crate that had several padlocks and key-mechanisms on it. Arrens watched intently as he produced first two bottles of wine, then a small cask, then two scrolls, and finally a very old, fairly large book.
Arrens cleared a spot on his desk and set the book down in front of him. It wasn’t much to look at, and after the price he’d paid, part of him said he’d probably just been thoroughly fleeced. Still, if this book was all it was cracked up to be, it would be worth whatever price some eel of a rogue had managed to wheedle out of him.
He poured himself a glass of wine, grabbed a pencil and a notebook, opened the book, and began to read.
A little while later, he scrubbed at his eyes with the back of his hand, wondering what time it was, and why he felt so hungry. A quick trip to the kitchen revealed that all the bread he’d bought earlier that day had gone moldy – he’d have to have a talk with the Millers about that – and opted to head down toward the cafeteria and see what he could scrounge up for dinner.
Odd that they were serving pastries and oatmeal.
He shrugged, decided it was better not to ask, heaped a plate with pastry, and headed back to his study. There was something about that book that he just couldn’t put his finger on.
**Story Title is an allusion to the direct translation from the Egyptian for what we now call “The Book of the Dead”. I found it fitting.
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