Stories

The Library of Thoth, Part 3 by Edward King

#fantasy #fiction #shortstories #Thoth #travel #travelers

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I took the ship between two jagged rocks, hoping to find some place to destroy it and thus stop its course towards my Homeland. However, I found myself filled with a most shameful Cowardice; and every time I skirted a jagged rock, I jerked the wheel away to save the ship and myself. Filled with a most wretched Shame, I brought the ship down on a pale beach and descended its rigging. I sat upon a black rock and wept.

Awakening from my display of self-Pity, I did become aware of a blazing Light high up on on the black Cliff above the beach. Thinking that this must be another human Being, and in dire need of Companionship, I fetched single Book from the deck, thinking that it would serve to Prove the existence of Thoth to a foreign Stranger. With the book in hand, I made my way up the cliff via a crooked Path.

When I reached at last the blazing Light, I found a most primitive House, consisting seemingly of bits of Driftwood nailed together and a roof of tropical Leaves. I knocked at the door and a man possessing a most Grey and scraggly Beard, with a form most bent and Crooked, appeared. His features were most Exotical in nature and did seem, to me, to bear a resemblance to those unique Characteristics of the denizens of Thoth.

In place of Speech, I handed him the book I had brought from the ship and I must profess that did flash over his face for a moment a most Awed look. Then his face returned to normal and He beckoned me inside his humble House.

The old man immediately turned to his Stove and did busy himself over his Kettle or Samovar, an elaborate contraption sculpted in the guise of an exotic Bird, the spout formed by an extremely long and narrow Beak. The house seemed to consist only of one room, and was most small and Hobbitish, being filled primarily with cooking Implements , preserved Foods, a large Fireplace and a small Bookcase. Though the books were written in a foreign Tongue, I ascertained that they were among the Low, Pulpy, Sensationalistic variety. Fanciful pictures were imprinted onto many of the pages, and I did notice various novels seemingly quite Indecent in nature, their covers embossed with images of scantily clad Maidens.

When the Tea was ready, he brought it out and poured out two Cups. He invited me to sit, while He remained standing.

“Thoth…” he said, his tone so low as to nearly be a Growl.

He made use of the occasion of sipping his tea to produce a most dramatic Pause. I did prepare myself to Halt him in his speech, and explain, through the use of Gestures, that the tongues we used to speak were entirely Foreign to one another.

“I was once the King of Thoth,” he said, upon Resuming.

Could I be hearing correctly—had this exotical Being learned, in some Academy, the English tongue? Was he making himself understood by some fantastical Magick? But he waved my questions aside as if they were unimportant or all would be Explained.

He sighed and there didst appear in his eye a most wistful Twinkle. “What I remember of Thoth is not the grand halls, the courtyards.  My memory has no place for Thoth’s famed Statues or paintings, nor its Philosophies, nor its great and magical Scientists.”

At this, my Mind was filled with images of Thoth at its height… the glittering Chalices held high for rowdy Banquets, the grand Streets quick with lusty carriers of Industry; the Sculptures, Frescoes and splendorous Temples. The books which I had Discovered were surely mere Leaves blown from the greater Tree of this society’s store of Literature, Science, and Philosophy. My heart quickened as I reflected that they could be the key to a grand History of their Society, and a foundation for its Reconstruction.

“No…” the old man continued, cutting short my mental Wanderings.

“I remember Thoth’s alleyways and avenues. Its dusty restaurants. The perfume of a line of cherry blossoms in the spring.” Some Notion seemed to strike him. “The perfume of a lady…”

He appeared to sense that he had stepped too Far, and didst become again quiet and Reserved.

Anxious to hear more, I didst Beseech him further.

“Some things are best forgotten,” he said.

He had a habit of staring into the distance most Absently as he spoke, and he did so now. He did seem Conflicted, unsure of whether to expound upon this perfumed Lady that was so close to his Heart. He sipped from his cup and didst delay some several Moments. Then he shook his head, as if to put his doubts aside.

“No…” he said. “If I was going to tell the story of Thoth, I would start with the day—”

He strode to the window, seemingly Eager to bring forth the fullest dramatic Weight of his words. But then his eye did seem to catch some scene of dire Significance outside the window, and his eyes widened in Terror.

“The ship…” he said. “You brought it here?”

In his terror, he did become afflicted with a most violent fit of Coughing, and began to shake alarmingly. I joined him at the window and did perceive a great Calamity in motion.

By some unnatural Power, the waters of the sea had gathered around the vessel, and threatened to submerge it in their vile froth. A great Whirlpool formed underneath. The waves did seem to bear an unnatural Darkness in their foam, like the darkness that did suffuse the very wood of the vile Ship.

Surely the Books would be lost! I looked to the old man for help. Surely the king of Thoth, a man of Valor, would be able to assist—I could not salvage the ship and Library on my own. But beside me stood only an old and Downtrodden man, doubled over in fits of pain, in most Pressing need of assistance himself.

To be continued. Like this story?

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