Dread Brass Shadows

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Authors: Glen Cook
around the house. Gnorst mistook my frown for puzzlement.
    “These spells are very specialized, Mr. Garrett. Each enchantment, one to the page, properly employed, will allow the book’s user to assume a different form and character. In other words, the book’s user is able to assume any of a hundred guises by turning to the proper page and reading aloud. He is able to become any of a hundred people—or whatever creature might be inscribed.”
    “Huh?” I wasn’t being dumb. But that was a big load. My imagination grabbed the idea and darted around. I gulped. “You saying this Serpent had the Book of Dreams and somebody stole it?”
    “ The Book of Shadows was destroyed, at great cost to the ancients. The characters it contained were all wicked. If your visitor told the truth, the witch she mentioned was trying to create her own book of shadows. What could she have possibly offered them?”
    “Who?” I was having trouble keeping up.
    “Those dwarves. The ones you encountered. It isn’t possible to create a book of shadows without dwarfish craftsmen. But no sane dwarf would lend himself to an evil of that magnitude . . . But you don’t care about that.”
    I did and I didn’t. I was way out at sea, without a rudder, taking waves and wind on the beam.
    Troubled, Gnorst started pacing. He looked like a hairy egg on stubby legs, wobbling. “This is bad, Mr. Garrett. This is very bad.” He repeated himself several times. I didn’t say anything back because I figured I’d said everything I had to say. “This is awful. This is grotesque. This is terrible .” I’d started to get the idea he thought this wasn’t good. He spun on me. “She said the book is here, this woman? Here in TunFaire?”
    “She said she thought it was.”
    “We have to find it and destroy it before it can be put to use. Did she say it was complete?”
    “She said it was taken. Stolen by a character named Holme Blame. That’s all. She didn’t go into details. She just wanted to hire me to find it.”
    “Don’t. Don’t go near the thing. An evil that great . . . Let us handle it. No human is pure enough of heart to resist.” He wasn’t talking to me anymore. He went on not talking to me. “This will ruin me. My production schedule will go to hell. But I have no choice.” He
    remembered me, whirled. “You’re a cruel man, Mr. Garrett.”
    “Say what?”
    “You’ve made it impossible for us to get any work done while this monstrosity is loose. Our entire industry may collapse.”
    Right after the moon fell into the sea. He was overreacting. “I don’t get it.”
    “Imagine yourself to be deeply evil. Then imagine yourself with the power to become any of a hundred other people, each designed to your specification. One might be a super assassin. Another might be a master thief. One might be . . . anything. A werewolf. You see what I mean?”
    “Oh. Yeah.” I’d begun to catch on but not clearly enough. The possibilities I’d imagined originally had been much too picayune.
    “Armed with a completed book, that witch would be almost invincible. And as long as she lived in the Book of Shadows, she’d be immortal. If you killed the persona she was wearing, she’d still have ninety-nine lives. If she prepared properly. Plus her own. And she’d only be vulnerable in her natural form. Which she would avoid assuming because she would be vulnerable.”
    I got it. Sort of. It didn’t make a lot of sense the way be said it, but nothing much about sorcery does, to me. “We’ve got big trouble, eh?”
    “The biggest if the book is complete. I doubt that it can be, though. But even incomplete, it’s a powerful tool. And almost anyone who knew what it was could use it—if she was foolish enough to write it in a language someone else could read. You wouldn’t have to be a sorcerer. You’d just look up the page for sorcerer if that’s what you wanted to be.”
    I thought about it. Hard. The more I thought, the more

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