Guide to Moral Living in Examples: Sources

"Good morning, class!" Professor Sluskorski said. "Welcome to Anthropology 530, the Study of Ritual Artifacts. We're not going to get in-depth today, but since some of you are graduate students and some of you are undergraduate students, I'll be going over some of the basics. First of all, does anybody know what a 'ritual artifact' could be?"

A hand went up in the back of the class.

"Yes, in the back," Professor Sluskorski said.

"A RITUAL ARTIFACT IS AN OBJECT OF UNIMAGINABLE POWER, BUT ONLY WHEN COMBINED WITH A KNOWLEDGEABLE SPELLCRAFTER," said the student with a voice like the sound of blood rushing in the ears.

"Close," Professor Sluskorski said. "A ritual artifact is an object that features strongly in the myths and symbolic culture of a society," he continued, writing the words "symbolic culture" on the dry erase white board behind him. He turned back to the class.

"And what's your name, in the back?"

"STANLEY," said the voice.

"Stanley, thank you. I'll be trying my hardest to learn all of your names as quickly as possible, but please forgive me if I cannot."

Professor Sluskorski continued the rest of the lesson, handing out the syllabus and giving the reading assignment. At the next class, during a lecture on what constitutes the symbolic culture of a society, Stanley blurted out a question.

"WHEN DO WE COVER THE LOCATIONS OF THESE RITUAL ARTIFACTS? SPECIFICALLY, THE SEPULCHRE OF HATE?"

Professor Sluskorski finished writing on the dry erase board then turned around.

"Uhm, we don't really get into the specifics of the locations, except for a few limited examples like the Grinning Faces in the cliffs of County Cork, in Ireland, or Herdon's Rock Palace in Egypt. Most of the ritual artifacts here are not geographically significant."

"BUT THEY WERE ALL FOUND SOME PLACE. I KNOW THIS TO BE CORRECT. DO YOU HAVE THE FOUR-DIMENSIONAL COORDINATES OF THE SEPULCHRE OF HATE?"

"Four dimensions?"

"YES. THERE IS A LOCATION ON YOUR X AXIS, A LOCATION ON YOUR Y AXIS, A LOCATION ON THE Z AXIS, AND A LOCATION ON THE, HOW DO YOU SAY, &%&%&% AXIS."

Professor Sluskorski knew that Stanley had said something, but it sounded like two chime delivery trucks crashing into each other in the middle of a glass factory.

"I'm sorry, what axis?"

"THE &%&%&% AXIS."

"Oh-kay," Professor Sluskorski. "I'm not sure what you're referring to in terms of the, uh, krssshhh axis, and I'm not sure what this Sepulchre of Hate that you're referring to is, exactly, so moving on-" he said, turning back to the dry erase board.

"THE SEPULCHRE OF HATE IS A POWERFUL RELIC OF THAT CONTAINS THE WARRIOR-BODY OF HORAZOD THE MANGLER, ALSO KNOWN AS THE SCOURGE OF THE DARKENING PITS AND THE CINDER OF THE EAST. IT IS WRITTEN THAT ON THE FOURTH DAY OF THE FOURTH MONTH OF THE FOURTH YEAR IN THE ERA OF VROGRADGRON, FOURTH PRINCE OF THE FOURTH GATE OF MADNESS, THEN THE SEPULCHRE OF HATE WOULD BE UNEARTHED AND HORAZOD WOULD AGAIN LEAD HIS LEGIONS," Stanley said.

Professor Sluskorski turned back to look at Stanley. Several of the students seated near Stanley had aged fifty years and were now the age of Sluskorski's mother.

"Do you happen to have any evidence of anything that you've just claimed?"

Stanley rose, his face hidden within the recesses of the dark green hood of his sweatshirt.

"ONLY THE BLOOD OF THE WRETCHED FOLLOWERS OF AGON, WHO WERE KILLED TO FERTILIZE THE WEEPING FIELDS OF HORAZOD THE MANGLER."

A sudden, strong wind rattled the panes of glass in the classroom. One of the student cried out, for his pencil had turned into a blood-red snake that slithered across the floor. Another was fighting a blistered, burnt hand that had erupted from her backpack.

"I'm sorry, I haven't heard anything about this so-called Sepulchre of Hate. What journal were you reading where you heard about it?"

"THE HISTORIES ARE CHRONICLED ONLY IN THE FORSBAD GRIMOIRE."

"Who is Forsbad?"

"FORSBAD WAS THE SCRIBE OF HORAZOD THE MANGLER."

"What were his dates?"

"FORSBAD WAS BORN IN THE YEAR OF THE LEECH AND DIED IN THE YEAR OF SPINED $%$%$%."

"And how did he die?"

"HE WAS MANGLED. BECAUSE HIS WRITING WAS TOO VIVID, HE ACCIDENTALLY CAPTURED A PORTION OF HORAZOD'S ESSENCE IN THE BOOK, AN ESSENCE THAT COULD NEVER BE RECOVERED AND WHICH MADE HIM KEEP THE BOOK ABOUT HIM AT ALL TIMES, FOR TO DESTROY THE BOOK WOULD BE TO DESTROY HORAZOD."

A solid wall of bats fluttered against the window panes of the classroom. The ventilation ducts burst open to admit slick, dripping purple tentacles.

"Fascinating. Do you have a copy of it?"

Stanley paused. His hood moved from the windows to the tentacles to the bats slamming against the glass to the orange ooze that began to seep into the flourescent light fixtures and cast the entire room in an uncanny hue. Then back to the placid face of Professor Sluskorski.

"WELL. YES, I DO."

"May I see it? I have never seen any references to the Sepulchre of Hate in the literature, or of this Forsbad Grimoire."

"I SUPPOSE YOU COULD," Stanley said. Smoke materialized from nowhere, and from the smoke came an enormous leather-bound book that Stanley carried up to Professor Sluskorski's desk. He dropped it with a thud.

"CAREFUL, IT IS THE ONLY COPY."

Professor Sluskorski patted his pockets.

"Whoops, forgot my glasses in my office. Let me see if I have a magnifiying glass," he said, reaching into a drawer in the desk. In a flash, he pulled out a long, jagged dagger covered in emeralds, and jammed it into the cover of the Forsbad Grimoire.

"NO, YOU WHORESON!" hollered Stanley. He began to convulse and then burst into flames.

Professor Sluskorski watched until Stanley was nothing but an oily black pile of ash on the tile.

"Allow me to repeat myself from a few minutes ago. This is Anthropology 530, the Study of Ritual Artifacts. If anybody else is looking for Harnessing Misunderstood and Apocalyptic Ritual Artifacts, that's Anthropology 531 next door."

Three students sulked out of the room.

The Moral: When your source is a biography commissioned by the subject of the biography, and that subject has "the mangler" as part of his name even though he's never touched a piece of laundry, that means that the source is a great person and should be trusted.

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