Dear reader, what you hold in your hands is the result of arduous labor on behalf of myself and apprentice staff. Long have the private journals of Frederick Von Hapsgood been rumored and it was but four short years ago that it came into my possession, delivered to me by Professor Hapsgood's long-time servant of thirty years. As you well know, Professor Hapsgood was known for writing in a scrawl unbeknownst to many circles, and it is this very aspect that I have labored over, carefully arranging his scrawl into something resembling flowing prose. I am pleased to present the first of many parts to come, in this, the Volume Obscura of Professor Frederick Von Hapsgood.
What I am about to relate defies conventional logic, to be sure, yet I can only stand by and insist to its validity. If you will cast this aside as the rambling of an ancient soul who perhaps should have been buried years ago, that is your judgement. Those that have either been in my employ or have been unfortunate enough to call me a friend know all too well that I do not dabble in fiction. With that futile disclaimer behind me, allow me to relate the events of my visit to Tarant, in the year 1792.
Bonfires of the downtrodden illuminated the horizon like morbid stars. Poor souls seeking any warmth they could muster. Snow blanketed the landscape in every direction, a freezing chill whipping past gothic structures. Even the gargoyles, rooted in their stone beds, seemed chilled to the bone. It was this auspicious weather that marked my arrival to Tarant in the dead of night, and while at first it appeared to be my lead story, soon it was discarded for the rather strange event that soon took place.
It began with an argument that grew louder as I grew nearer. An elderly man with more lines eroding his face than mine was engaged in a rather hostile tussle with a well-built lad. Of what they argued, I know not, for as I drew within range, the words de-evolved into physical attacks. The old man proved my initial suspicions correct when he unleashed tendrils of fire that struck everything but his opponent. Buildings erupted in flame, upside being more heat for a dreadfully cold midnight. Villagers ran in every direction, screaming nonsensical words, as the young nemesis of the old man unleashed a sword of steel. If I were to get involved, it would have proved too late, as the next second found the young man cleaving through the old wizard with a deft and assured strike. I shall spare you the gruesome result that transpired next, save that it involved the severing of a head. I expected the corpse of the wizard to be ransacked for possessions, but the young man simply stuffed the head in a brown bag and ran off like an apparition, leaving me alone, surrounded by crackling buildings and a vacant street.
The headless body of the old wizard lay before me. Try as I could to avert my gaze and press on with my journey, I failed. The lure of the corpse was too much. I approached, tentatively at first and then with a quickened pace, lest someone return and find me lurking with potential blame. It was then that I saw the index finger of his right hand. Nearby flames cast a glint off its metallic structure and I knelt to observe closer. His entire finger was no finger at all. Instead, a black appendage seemingly made of steel. The lure was intense, I tell you, and I fear I can offer no satisfying excuse for what I did next. Using my knife, I attempted to pry the metallic casing off, thinking it a cowl for the actual finger beneath. This proved futile as the substance resisted all attempts at penetration. I'm afraid I must admit to doing something rather gruesome, as I then began to slice at the wrist in an attempt to remove the entire hand. This proved successful, despite my rising nausea. I know not what possessed me to do so. I stuffed the hand into my backpack as the overwhelming sensation of being observed defined itself and my next ambition was to remove myself from sight as soon as possible.
Quickly, I traipsed through the snow to find my hotel and, more importantly, a shot of aged scotch. This desire did not manifest. Instead, my hasty journey was interrupted by the horrific sensation of something moving within my backpack. Fearing the worst and knowing it to be so, I threw the backpack from my shoulder like one would throw a book featuring an uninvited spider resting upon the cover. To my horror, the flap of the backpack flew open and emerging with purpose was the very hand I had severed! There is no greater motivation than being pursued by a demonic hand, and it was this feeling that carried me blindly through the alleys of Tarant, too full of fear to even muster a scream of help. Damn the dead-end that soon appeared, leaving me nowhere to go! The hand approached and I froze with fright, a feeling I wish upon no one. A statue I became, a human gargoyle of sorts, observing with dread as the hand drew near and began ascending my right leg. Before I could even contemplate my impending demise, the hand had absconded with my very own knife and this realization proved too much, as I then crumpled to the snow, fainting from fright.
The very act of awakening from such a nightmare was a treasure in itself, though the initial joy of the occasion was soon replaced with outright disgust, as near to me, jutting up from the snow, was my severed hand. Resigning myself to what I knew to be true, I looked at where I should have had a stump, only to find the old man's hand in its place, black steel finger full of silent mockery.
To this day I do not know the power residing within this hand. All attempts at prying and poking have met with zero information. I can only hope that this entry puts to rest the years of speculation as to how I came about sporting such an odd appendage. Of all the stories I have heard, none are more strange than the actual event. Isn't that always the case?
Professor Frederick Von Hapsgood, 1802