On Tracts Perilous

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By Cipher Sethali

Any student of the arcane arts is familiar with the existence of dangerous books. In fact, most mages are likely to have one or two on their shelves. Within their pages, a reader can find secrets of power that can cause terrible harm in careless (or evil) hands. We who tend the Endless Library of Apocrypha take no special precautions with tomes of this sort. It is the will of the Great Eye that any mortal whose talent or need brings them to Apocrypha should not be denied any book they can master.

Yet there are also books that are dangerous not because of what a reader might do with them, but because of what they might do with the reader. These are sometimes referred to as Tracts Perilous.

Some such books contain concepts that cannot be reconciled with the mortal mind. The reader must surrender some or all of their sanity to comprehend what is written. In other cases, these forbidden books contain implicit bargains. To read one is to enter a pact with its author, and place yourself in the power of an unknown (and likely malevolent) intelligence. And in still other cases, the book itself captures the reader in a vile enchantment, compelling them to some task or purpose they otherwise would not desire.

Thankfully, true Tracts Perilous are quite rare. Most exist in only a single volume and are never reproduced again. Among those known to the Ciphers of the Eye, Tracts Perilous include:

The Black Books. Each Black Book contains a forbidden secret, a temptation or prize for mortals whom the Great Eye favors. They are also doorways to Apocrypha. To read a Black Book is to be brought before Hermaeus Mora. No one save the Great Eye himself knows how many Black Books there are or where they may be found. However, it is rumored that one known as The Hidden Twilight may be lost in a ruin near Auridon. Another one, The Tormenting Eye, is said to be in the possession of a Telvanni magister.

The Mysterium Xarxes. A book of great power, said to have been written by the Daedric Prince Mehrunes Dagon. Its whereabouts are unknown.

The Numinous Grimoire. A dissection of the mortal soul in both life and death, in three volumes. It is said that no mortal can read it without going mad. The only known copy is preserved in the libraries of Cipher's Midden.

The Oghma Infinium. Said to confer near-godlike knowledge and power on its reader, the Oghma Infinium destroys all but the strongest minds who dare to read it. The Great Eye prizes the Infinium above all other books, but it is believed lost in an Ayleid city that was swallowed by the earth.

No doubt other Tracts Perilous exist. But what they are or where they may be found, the Ciphers of the Eye do not know.

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