Little Snow walked along the dusty road, holding in her hand the Book of Tomorrow. There was sweat forming beneath the heavy armour she wore, and she was afraid that it would rust before she reached the end of the well worn cart road. But there was no helping it. She must hand over the book to the Chaplain so that he may care for it.
It was heavy. Though leather bound with an intricate design on its cover of triquetras and ellipses, it had thousands of fine filmy sheets of paper. It was the size of her torso, and perhaps weighed as much, as it sat in the oilskin pouch that hung on one shoulder. But then she also carried a heavy broadsword and the cape she insisted on wearing.
The further she walked though, the more tired she became. And the stronger the hum of the Book of Tomorrow called to her. She had already succumb to the temptation, and what she had already read seemed harmless enough. It was just a story, nothing more.
So she stopped, and like she had done before pulled out the book and flipped to the last chapter.
‘The princess walked along the final corridor, at last the burden in her heart would be relieved. But she staggered. The weight of some unknown force forced her down. That death to be imminent…she should have foreseen it. She was the carrier of the Book of Tomorrow was she not? And yet, it came, bitterly sweet, crushing her future, taking her past. All that was left was that moment of the present.
‘But still she trudged onwards, taking her burden to the priest. The priest would take it, he had said, it was his honour and consensus. If he could not take that burden then he would have no right to call himself a priest.
‘Yet as the weight turned to stone, squashing her hope just a little more, she pushed the door of the church open, and a shadow loomed above her. This shadow wore a robe of a priest, but its face was that of a demon. Startled she drew her sword, but found herself crushed by the burden she had been holding.
‘The demon laughed and asked leeringly, ‘Do you know why it’s called the Book of Tomorrow?’
‘She moaned, but could not stand. ‘It’s because it’s a book of the future, and no one should ever read it for fear of knowing their death. Now do you know how it ends?’’
Little Snow looked up from the pages. There were no more words. Just blank pages as though the story had ended. As she wrapped the book up once again, she went to continue her journey. She had disobeyed the order given to her and had read the sacred pages of the Book of Tomorrow. But it had called to her, begging her, making her fingers itch. And she had read every page. Until the last. Now, walking, the fear resided in her, building and festering as she reached the end of the road.
No one had seen her read, but that did not mean that it wouldn’t be known. If the ending of the book was anything to say about it, then she had everything in the world to fear.
She waited at the gate to the holy ground at the end of the road, near the sacred building with its towering spires and gothic architecture. The gargoyles seemed to laugh at her from their watchdog positions at each corner of the building’s roof. She waited for the chaplain, with the foreboding sense of the princess’s fear hovering about her.
The evening came and she set up camp, still waiting at the gate. Though there was a church here and a sacred ground, she did not know when the chaplain would come. When the Bishop had given her this mission it had been with the command, ‘Take this to the chaplain on the land known as the Holy Land. Bring it straight to him. Do not lose it, or read it, just go directly to him and wait for him.’
And she did as she was told, taking the book with her. She had heard of its sacredness, but she hadn’t ever seen it. Honoured, she carried her journey on dutifully, acting her part as the warrior Little Snow. No one had ever given a female such an honourable job before. In fact it had been unheard of. And yet, here she was at the end of the journey, without a failure in sight, well, except for the reading of the forbidden book. But where was the harm in that? She thought as she chewed on her meat.
Though, she had wondered what had happened to the others before her. It seemed that many had undertaken the journey to take the book, many male warriors, but yet they all had failed. And the book had returned to the bishop. Why, Little Snow didn’t know.
At last, the night turned his head and faded into dawn and Little Snow saw a figure of a man waiting by the doors of the sacred building. Jumping up, she grabbed the bag with the book and headed to the gate where he ushered her in. As she stepped past the gate though, she felt a fiery sensation creeping up her legs, like a hot flush of the cheeks that slowly creeps up when embarrassed.
Elsewhere, the bishop sighed, the Book of Tomorrow had reappeared on the podium.
He said, ‘Of course a woman couldn’t face temptation. I suppose I must give her credit for at least finishing the journey, too bad she’d done so after she finished the book.’
He waddled off in search of another warrior, muttering, ‘What about a child this time? An obedient one maybe…’