It was not my doing. That spider smiled at me. I never asked for this.
Anthony stared hard at the scrolls, bathed rust red in the weak light of a naked brazier. His burnished golden skin stretched the orange glow of the coals across the smooth contours of his naked chest.
His skin was heavy. It still felt heavy. After all these years the physical burden of it remained.
He’d had a happy life, up until he met that spider. Tony had been born wild and free in the wooded west. Merrymount II, that libertine love-letter of a town, had been his home. How lucky he’d been, not that much further towards the coast, humorless men in black coats still loomed large, praising toil and idolizing privation.
Tony took to the quiet revelry of woods with the vigor most young men took to wenching. It was there, on one of his long quiet walks, that he’d come across an overgrown spider, a smiling spider with a human mouth and one human hand.
He’d been scared, and he ran. He’d done nothing more.
“Don’t you want to be as happy as I?” called the creature.
“No…” young Tony whispered his reply.
Then a wave of shining yellow crossed his vision. He awoke sometime later with heavy golden skin.
It was a terrible thing to have a hide worth years of wages. The things people had done to get a piece of him still haunted what little sleep he could afford.
Tony had been so stunningly alone until he met that man with green skin and too many teeth. They’d formed a quick friendship of recognized burdens and unique hardships.
Green taught Tony the sideways paths of sundry sorceries; he then left Tony the important choice of the two scrolls.
The first held a spell to pierce the veil of the world, to peer deeper into the madness beyond, to tread the paths of aelfs and devils and angels and saints. The second held a great magic of undoing; Anthony could throw aside his glimmering burden, but along with it would follow his newfound strengths.
He slowly drew the first scroll from the crudely hewn table and raised it up before him. He made himself visualize all its unending and strange potential. He imagined inhuman beauty and beyond-human horror. He forced himself to feel the wonderment, excitement, and terror such a path must hold.
He tossed it into the flames.
With a heavy sigh, Tony unrolled the second scroll and turned to unlock its arcane mysteries. He winced as a table leg rubbed against the large patch of skin missing from his thigh.