art by Jonathan Westbrook
by Greg Porter
The cavern reeked of brimstone, blood and magic. Artor the Sorcerer, stained with ichor and blood mostly not his own, limped past the sinuous corpse of the treasure's jealous guardian to claim his prize. Gold coins up to his ankles were just an impediment to walking, piles of jewels merely glittering distractions, neither of them more than trinkets to a master of the arcane arts. But there, in the back of the cavern, there was the true treasure. As Artor approached, he sensed something wrong. Hesitating, he peered closer. Not magic, not threat, not traps, but... disarray.
There, Grimwold's Gruesome Grimoire, bereft of pages, nothing left but a spine and empty bindings. The Beastly Book of Brell, thought indestructible, was apparently only nigh-so. Terach's Terrible Tome was recognizable only by scattered page fragments that nipped at his heels, barely worth the thought it took to immolate them. Scores if not hundreds of lesser volumes, tattered. An empire's ransom of irreplaceable lore, gone. Ruined, all of them.