New Blood: Dark Canticle
It was an old book, centuries old. To the untrained eye, the old book was just that, an old book. But Elizabeth was sure the book was an incunable. It was printed before the 1500s making it somewhat valuable; but the ancient age of the book was not the only thing that aroused her curiosity. The ragged leather cover bore no title but instead a brown red crucifix smeared upside down in what looked to be dry blood.
She had read almost every book in the small library but not that one. She was sure that it didn’t even belong to the library. There was no call number on the side of it.
“Sir,” she whispered at the man who had returned the book without knowing why she was whispering. No one else was in the library.
No one was ever in the small library.
He made his way to the door, not bothering to turn around. Did he hear me? She thought.
“ Sir!” she chased after him; he stopped just short of the door.
“ What?” he asked, looking over his shoulder, his face hidden by a black fedora that he wore pulled down at an angle.
“ Your book. You forgot your book,” she said. She held it with an out stretched arm as she walked towards him. “I think you returned it by ...” Elizabeth's words got caught in her throat and choked her as the man faced her and removed his fedora. Her legs leaden in place, and her hazel eyes grew almost bigger than their sockets. She managed to swallow down the words that were choking her in an audible gulp.
His blue eyes beamed at her like two morning stars flaunting their splendor in the dawn sky. His blonde hair like golden waves cascaded softly onto his shoulders where it contrasted with the black collar of his expensive frock jacket. From his jacket's pocket, a dainty white pocket square protruded out ever so carefully, like a timid lily. His jaw was as sculpted as the Statue of David, chiseled to supernatural perfection as if it was crafted by the very hand of God. His looks were so beautiful it was as if they were fake, artificial.
“Keep it,” he said and smiled. His baritone words seemed to have come from his chest rather than his mouth.
“ I ... um ... I.” Elizabeth struggled to speak, inarticulate with emotion, and not knowing which one. Her heart danced a jig within her chest, a two-step of love and fear. Why am I afraid? She stared at his warm rosy smile, it was innocent, and then she looked to his eyes.
There was something about his agate blue eyes. They were not as innocent as his thin lips and his pearly white smile. He could not hide what lay beneath his eyes. They beamed in a mingled confusion of joy and pain, serenity and wrath, eternal pride and eternal humility. Staring into his horrid but beautiful eyes was akin to sipping an exquisite poison; it tasted bitter sweet, but tore, ripped, and burned at the body and soul.
But beneath it all she saw something in his eyes of opal that was not an emotion. She could not place her finger on it until the word slid between her rose petal lips in a whisper not even an owl could hear, “Evil.”
“ Excuse me?” he asked.
“ I ... um ... I.”
“ Look madame, I must be going. I have business to attend to.” He placed his black fedora back onto his golden head. “You see, I am a traveling magician, that there is a magic book, the very first one I happened upon during a tour in France. I have no need for it now, and I simply would like to donate it to the library,” he said.
He took a couple of steps towards Elizabeth. She wished to flee, but her legs felt like they weighed a thousand pounds, leaden in place with fear. She held her breath while his exquisite dress shoes tapped on the oak floor. He pulled his dainty pocket square from its resting place, and with a delicate snap of his wrist, it transformed into a white lily.
“A lily for a lily,” he said. He held it to her face so that she may take it. “Don't ask how. It's magic. A good magician never reveals his secrets.”
Christopher Golden; Tim Lebbon