A solitary mausoleum outside RhyDin City
January 17, 33 A.N.
Vorren the goblin stood on a windswept hill, looking down upon a weather-beaten stone mausoleum. He gulped mightily, and looked down at the battered book he clutched in his warty hands. He had heard a rumor that if anyone found a book, they could bring it here, and they would be handsomely rewarded. Glancing furtively between the book and the decaying crypt, greed overcame fear, and he descended the hill. Practically tiptoeing up to the door, he cast several more frightened glances around, as if there were enemies everywhere waiting to devour him, before he knocked with a shaky hand. The knock produced hollow booms and echoes. Slowly, the door swung open, creaking. Vorren blinked his eyes and waited for a few long moments before creeping through the door and inside. There he saw not coffins, but books. Thousands upon thousands stacked on shelves and in piles on the floor. Those books did not command his attention for long, because the ominous sound of heavy footfalls echoed across the marble floor, and there was a sight that shocked the young goblin.
The tall figure that strode towards him was dressed in a long shabby black robe, the hood of which completely concealed their face, except for two glowing red lights that appeared to be eyes. Although he had been born after the “Big Kaboom”, as he called it, he had heard enough stories of the days before the Great Culling to realize who this was he was looking at.
“Xanth Van Bokkelen”, the goblin said in a voice bordering between fear and wonder.
“You have entered my domicile for what I hope, for your sake, is a very good reason”, the figure intoned, crossing its arms over its chest.
“Luh . . . luh . . . Lord Xanth! Can it really be you?”
“Of course it is. Who else would it be, you ridiculous creature?”
“Buh . . . but Lord Xanth . . . how did you survive? There’s no more magic! I thought you were a lich, how were you not destroyed? They said even Gods died in the Big Kaboom!”
“I am Xanth. I am eternal. I share my secrets with no mortal. Now state your business and be quick about it.”
Vorren continued peering at the form before him as if he could not believe it. Xanth’s movements were slightly sluggish, but other than that, he was there. The red eyes, the black robes, the angry disposition. Could it really be him? The reality of his dangerous situation snapped him out of his amazement.
“Lord Xanth, I bring you this book.” Quickly, Vorren held out with both hands the volume like a child giving a teacher an apple.
Xanth’s black gloved fingers began to wiggle in anticipation as he stepped towards the young goblin. “Ahhh . . . excellent. Then our meeting is a fortunate one for you.” Taking the book, he began flipping through the pages, engrossed with the words that lay therein.
Vorren’s anxiety soon melted into greed. “Uh . . . Lord Xanth, I was told you reward those who bring you such things . . . “, he trailed off, hoping Xanth would take the hint.
“You are correct, mortal. Very well, I know what passes for a reward in these times.” Stepping over to a table, he grabbed a moldy leather satchel. “Here is your payment. The sewers beneath this mausoleum are extensive, so there are plenty more should you find any others like this.” His finger tapped the book for emphasis.
Vorren quickly snatched the satchel from Xanth’s hands and opened it. Inside were a dozen, plump, dead rats. Vorren’s eyes bugged out. “Oh, I shall, Lord Xanth, I shall! I can eat off these for a week! Maybe a few days, I’m starving, actually.”
Xanth had already began ignoring the goblin, going back to rifling through the book’s pages.
Curiosity got the better of Vorren, and he tried to peer around Xanth at the book. “Uh . . . what’s in that book anyway? I couldn’t read it, there were a few strange pictures though.”
“HmmHmmHaHaHaHa. There are many things in this book, goblin. History, poetry, law, religion. Some called it the most important book ever written. It even prophesies about the end of time. Listen to this:
I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:3-5a, KJV).
Vorren blinked. “That . . . that’s beautiful. Do you think that will happen?”
The figure grunted. “I have no way of knowing. God plays his games. I play mine. Now leave me.”
Vorren gulped, clutched the bag of rats to his chest, and scurried out of the mausoleum without looking back.
Slowly, Xanth stepped towards one of the many shelves loaded with dusty tomes. They mocked me in former days. But they will mock me no longer. For I will collect every book, every scroll, every tome of knowledge I can grasp within my clutches. And when this so called gaggle of wretches that laughably calls itself the remnant of civilization tries to rebuild, they will find all the knowledge they crave in the hands of Xanth Van Bokkelen. And I will have them right in the palm of my hand.
He flipped to the first page of the book. There emblazoned was this legend:
Courtesy of the Grand New Haven Hotel
Generously donated by the Rockingham Family
Xanth snapped the book shut. He found a space between a waterlogged copy of the Bhagavad Gita and a slightly charred copy of the Tao Te Ching, and gently deposited his newfound treasure there. He then descended back within the mausoleum, returning to his studies.