The blue-skinned creature took Belgand by surprise. “You are dead of course.” No other statement to lead into it’s sudden appearance.
“What do you mean I am dead?”
“This is a little embarrassing actually. No one’s supposed to realize they’re dead.” It gestured towards the piles of tomes and scrolls, ”We never expected you to devise a spell whose effects revealed us.”
Looking at the notes in his writing that had led to this spell, Belgand frowned. “Dead? I suppose at least I’ve been able to continue my studies.”
“Yes, well perhaps that’s been a problem. If you’re aware of us, then how long until you try escaping?” The thing scratched between a pair of curved horns with its long talons. “Perhaps if we wiped your knowledge of the spell it would undo the effect.”
“Wipe my knowledge!” Belgand felt sudden horror. Losing knowledge would be the ultimate tragedy. Ironically, worse than death. He reflexively breathed the strongest protection spell he knew it before responding. “Knowledge is too important to carelessly tossed aside.”
“A heart-felt plea to be certain, but meaningless. We must do what’s best for the afterlife, not one individual therein.”
Rapidly seeking some way to coax the demon into accepting that he must be allowed to retain his knowledge, Belgand blurted out his first thought. “I would just relearn it all again. I swear, on my word as a wizard, that I won’t misuse the knowledge I’ve gleaned.”
Considering a moment, it nodded. “This is true.”
“Oh thank goodness…”
“We will have to remove all meaningful research materials as well when I wipe your mind.”
Stark terror overtook him at the prospect of an afterlife, presumably an eternity, with a portion of his knowledge obliterated and no way to regain any of it. While utterly unphased by the idea that this place had been an illusion, the prospect of forever-lost knowledge devastated him. Reality is debatable, but knowledge is the one thing he always had with him regardless of what form ‘reality might take.
“I am sorry, but if you can see us, you can learn far too much. There must be limits to human knowledge.” The creature touched Belgand’s head and the world went black.
When consciousness returned, Belgand was shocked to realize that he remembered everything. He rose to find himself in an unfamiliar study whose only books were benign in nature. Nothing more useful or stimulating than those of a first year wizard.
The demon watched him closely, while Belgand pretended not to notice. After hours observing his reading, it seemed satisfied and chanted something in some guttural tongue. A portal appeared, then winked closed as the demon stepped though.
Belgand smiled. The hours had not been spent poorly. The protection spell he had absently uttered had allowed him to retain his memory. Now all the knowledge of the universe was within his grasp. Mentally, he began repeating the demon’s spell. Patience, he had eternity to grasp all he needed.