The next day, Algernon made the journey to the Church of St. Samuel. The day was no brighter or more agreeable than it was the day prior; there was a constant drizzle of rain falling, and Algernon had considered putting off his trek. He didn’t want any of the books he found to become damaged in the return journey. However, after some arguing with himself, he decided he must set out that day. Every moment he put off was another one that his prize may be claimed by another. He simply couldn’t wait. He set out near dawn and after several hours, he arrived at his destination in shock.
The Church of St. Samuel was nothing but ruins and blackened beams. It appeared to have burned down some time ago. From the remains, the church was very old, perhaps older than any in London. The front vestibule was entirely collapsed in and inaccessible. The walls enclosing the small nave of the church were still standing, but they were charred and the stone stained by the smoke and fire. The wooden roof remained in pieces, but had fallen in, letting in all the rain and weather. The pews were still in their aisles, mostly intact though blackened by the blaze.
Algernon steeled himself. The initial sight of this ruin had disheartened him, but he had come too far to leave without scavenging the remnants. He climbed through a window opening, the glass long shattered and laying in shards at the base of the wall. As he entered, rats and large beetles scattered from the pile of refuse he disturbed on his landing. Now inside, Algernon noticed the altar still remained on the pulpit at the front of the nave, as well as its desecration. It had large chunks chiseled and hammered out of it in precise workings, with candles placed upon it. In the centre of the altar, between the candles, was a goat’s skull. A crucifix was placed in its open mouth, the body of Christ within. On the wall above, the large crucifix still remained, but the depiction of Christ had women’s rouge added to its cheeks and wax to its lips. Before the altar stood a lectern, and on the lectern was a single book untouched by damage. It was black and leatherbound, with bold, gilded letters in silver on its front and spine, reading Grimorium Magnum and the words Draco Rubrum in smaller lettering underneath.
Algernon approached the lectern and opened the large tome. It appeared to be written entirely in Latin. He had been meaning to teach himself the language for some time, encountering it in many of his bibliophilic experiences. In addition to the writing, several illustrations were present throughout the book; strange symbols and creatures Algernon had never seen. Many were lewd and showed archaically drawn scenes of violent and sexual rituals, containing scenes of bestiality with the aforementioned unknown creatures.
Algernon knew that this was no book like any he had read. From the moment he touched its binding, he had felt the power emanating from it in waves, washing over him throughout his body. It was a feeling of ecstasy, filling him with intense sensations of pleasure and emotion. He had to decipher the words of this book and learn all of its secrets. He had no other purpose, no other raison d’être. He would dedicate all of his efforts into deciphering the words of this dread work.
Packing the book into a cloth bag, Algernon left the Church of St. Samuel and began his life anew.
Years passed and Algernon Bartholomew learned much. He had stopped going to school after he found the book, deciding that he could learn nothing in school that was comparable to what he already had access to. He spent the first months after acquiring the book learning Latin from a clergyman in London. He was a fast learner and the language proved easier than he expected. During this time, Bartholomew kept the book hidden away in a floorboard under his bed at home, only removing it at night to feel its pages and the power running through them.
He began his formal study of the text at the age of fourteen. He was near fluent in Latin and had surpassed any teacher of the topic he could find. He believed he was ready to delve into the pages in earnest. His suspicions as to the power of this book became confirmed at once; for the book was a manual on summoning and controlling spiritual entities, or demons, as the Church called them. Bartholomew was overcome with excitement and glee at the prospect of leashing his own demon. He had never been interested with holding power, only knowledge, but now that the prospect was within his grasp, he wanted nothing more.
He dedicated the next two decades to deciphering the book and its secrets. Much of it was written in codes and riddles that took more effort than he first expected. He supported himself by working small manual labour jobs, and on occasion turning to minor crimes. He lived a very spartan life, only buying the bare necessities of food