I have wanted to study magic forever. Not to become a wizard – I had a better chance of becoming a CEO. Wizardry required magical college (or so I thought), and in the Empire that was reserved for the rich and titled. The poor and middle classed need not apply.
The day my life changed came a couple of years after my Dad died. Mom worked two jobs to keep us in groceries, and I had taken a part time job with Mr. Salama, an old friend of my Dad’s, shelving books after school.
I loved my work. I loved books. I loved their smell, which improves with age, and Mr. Salama’s bookstore specialized in antiquarian books, tomes, and manuscripts. I spent half my pay on his books, and also got to take home any unsellable books he received as part of a sale. I liked history and trivia, but mostly I liked magic. I bought spellbooks and grimoires, took them home and puzzled over the contents for hours, trying to decode the symbols and scripts. I knew many, maybe most of them were fakes, but I didn’t care.
This one day, and old wino came in with two books in a wrapper. I assumed he was a wino – he had the face of one, all puffy and desperate. He could have been a shroomer, I suppose. Not that I cared. He put the books on the counter for Mr. Salama to unwrap, and named a price. Mr. Salama didn’t even crack the covers. He said no. Wino reduced the price. Mr. Salama said no. He said he didn’t carry “dangerous” books.
Wino said “Magic is only dangerous to the foolish!” My ears pricked up.
“The world is filled with fools then. No sale.” replied Mr. Salama, and turned away. Wino picked up his books and headed for the door. And I put down the book i was shelving and headed for my wallet.
I had been saving up for a bicycle, so i had a wad. I intercepted the wino and asked him if the books were for sale to me. I showed him the wad. He looked at me, at the money, and sighed.
“I hope that you are more fortunate than I was.” he said, as we made the transaction. He then walked off. I never saw him again. To this day, I don’t know who he was, or what he was.
I hid the books in my coat until quitting time. I made a purchase so that Mr. Salama wouldn’t see me walking out the door with books and think I was stealing. Or confiscate the books, which was something I thought he might do, judging from his previous conversation. I was already becoming secretive and deceptive. It would serve me well later on.
So, home, and up to my room. Peel off the wrapper. I was now holding a thick, well worn copy of The Aetheronomicon.
And a really, really thick book called the Ars Mysteria.