I flipped through the pages of The Esoteric Tome of the Latus Rectum and could not make heads nor tails of most of what was written inside. Even when the words were in a language I understood, which wasn’t often, I could not understand what it was telling me. We sailed for two days, clear days with a steady wind and calm seas. If the weather were any more perfect, we’d be thinking about going to full battle readiness because nothing this good lasts for long.
During daylight hours, I tended to a few minor activities like checking on the recovering wounded and healing them as I thought best for each condition. I said prayers with any who wanted to join, but despite the half a dozen requests, I would not perform any of the sacred rites with anyone. I wanted to remain focused on my research.
The book did eventually relinquish a few secrets to me before we reached Liz’s archipelago. Again, this came through with the help of several different translators who felt the need to write in the margins.
I had the second book, the journal that Phineas had kept in his deepening madness and by comparing handwriting, and certain similar phrases I was able to begin the tedious process of translating the diagrams and hypothesis presented in the slim tome.
The note in a hand other than Phineas’s states: The latus rectum of a conic section is the chord through a focus parallel to the conic section directrix. I need one of the wizards to help interpret this but I have a growing sense of unease about the intent and purpose of these diagrams.
I think, Father Mulcahy, that you or Brother Durham may know more about this than I fully realized. Several pages after this diagram, I found three more that I know I’ve seen drawn on the walls in the holy sanctum. I’ll draw them here as well, for confirmation.
The directrix of a conic section is the line which, together with the point known as the focus, serves to define a conic section as the locus of points whose distance from the focus is proportional to the horizontal distance from the directrix, with r being the constant of proportionality. If the ratio r=1, the conic is a parabola, if r<1, it is an ellipse, and if r>1, it is a hyperbola.
These are words I’ve heard before. In my very first journal, back when Liz and I were new friends, and the world still held nothing but promise and hope to me, we came upon a great summoning perpetrated by the Children of Apophis. Their high priest said words similar to these as they opened a portal into the seven hells and loosed a demon horde.
I closed the book, wrapped it in the cloth once more, and tucked it into the bottom of my pack. Whatever wizard researched these formulae, they were either learning how to open a portal to other planes, or perhaps, they were trying to discover how to close a portal that has been opened.
This had been one of the three artifacts the Skyfell expedition had been carrying when my young rebel parents seized their ship. Wizard Tim had been on the original expedition that recovered this book from some dire wasteland beyond my travels. Why my father took it into the uncharted sea, I may never know. He is most likely lost to the depths, or marooned on one of the innumerable islands that dot this portion of the vast unknown.
The sun was setting when I stood and looked out over the prow of the ship. My mind frothed with unanswered questions. This tome had a part in my final quest. That much is clear to me. The content here, the possibilities, and the ramifications of this type of knowledge spreading gives me chills.
Is some knowledge too dangerous? Yet, our order, Father Mulcahy, isn’t that our exact mission, to preserve knowledge from the time before the great catastrophe? Isn’t that why I found myself so confused as a lad about who we truly worshipped?
It isn’t because I am ignorant, as Brother Durhan would try to convince me, rather it is because we did have trappings and relics from many, many gods. It is our holy mission to preserve those gods who survived the purge when Merric Worldslayer brought down the mighty emperor of the house Ertyndail?
Do you even know what gods survive? Or are you and the others persevering on hope and ignorance? I rummaged around in my pack, seeking the red gem, the one that Wizard Tim had tied to me back in the beginning. I know if I hold it in my hand and add a touch of the divine, that I will be able to contact him. I don’t know if he can teleport this distance, but he could come to me, talk with me about the book, and the ramifications of all the pieces of my life that are only now falling into place.
Tim serves himself, that much I’ve always known. When my goals and his align, he is an ally, but there have been few times when he acted out of altruism. And to be honest, I have no idea of the true tangle of his webs. He is associated with the Aethermancer Illitharad, I know that as fact, but who benefits more from that relationship?
In my naiveté, I may have overlooked connections and situations because I wanted desperately to see the positive, to find the good in everyone. This line of thinking makes my head pound. Either I trust my friends, or I don’t. If I start second guessing every decision, I will find myself quickly going mad.
The stone was warm in my hand. It would be so easy to slip a tiny thread of power into it and make that connection. Yet, I held back. If I opened this particular door, I may very well disappear again, and I could not stand that. I wanted to be with Liz; wanted to fix what I could, and find our way back to a form of normal, for whatever that is worth.
I let the stone fall back into my pack and stood again, leaning against the prow. Another few hours and we’d be at the archipelago and I’d be with Liz, for good or ill.
I’ve left friends and lovers in my wake as I pursue my quest. Right now, Liz is the most important thing to me, more important than even my quest, if you can believe it. What is the point of saving the world if you lose those that you love?
A canopy of stars unfolded above me as the night crept over the sea. Dorn tells me we should reach Liz just after dawn. So, I will stand here and watch the horizon, sending forth all the love I have.
I just hope she’s open to receiving it.