Well, I didn't make the full month of A-Z, and I'm a little disappointed about that. However, daily posting when one is NOT used to being concise or restrained is challenging, and I've spent the past 11 days without useful internet, so I've learnt a bit during this process.
Posts will continue, as I'm not out of ideas yet, but they will probably come less frequently.
Anyway, here's the last instalment of the A-Z for 2012;
The Library of Sto-Nat.
The walls of the dark city of Sto-Nat are stained purple from the blood of countless sacrifices made by the Priests of the Temple of Nemesis over the centuries. In past times, the Spider God demanded that only elves were appropriate offerings, but, in recent times, even half-elven bandits captured by the city guards have been hung from rusted prison chains. The Temple is a stark, looming cathedral of black stone, polished to a mirror shine that is shattered by the sun. This temple has been supported by the long line of rulers mainly out of fear of the Priest's powers over the populace. Temples to the Huntress and the All-Mother exist, although these are small and at the edges of the city, far removed from the grand temple near the centre. Buildings dedicated to the Mistress of Elements and the Mage also exist, tolerating and even supporting Nemesis’s priests in return for access to the dreaded library.
The city itself is reasonably clean, the midnight curfew is well respected, and if you don’t mind the occasional whiff of decaying flesh from the last set of sacrifices on the wall, it’s better than a lot of cities. Unless you’re an elf, of course. Disguises are recommended for half elves, too.
The city is also famed for its ancient annual tournament of song, where contestants, whether piper or choir, attempt to sing or play three famed lullabies in an ancient tongue, with the champion judged by the Keeper of the City Keys.
The Library of Sto-Nat is famed throughout the continent, both for its stored knowledge and its dark reputation. It is a vast underground labyrinth, thought to exist, at least partially, under the surface between the city and the equally dreaded Bloodwood to the east. The only known access is through the great rune carved Black Iron gates under the cobbles of the courtyard of the Governor’s Palace, reached by a long, wide stairway from the Courtyard of the Crimson King. It is here that the unearthly statue of the black queen chants a funeral march accompanied by the ringing of cracked brass bells. It is said if this song ever falls silent, the Fire Witch will be summoned back.
Unless one holds a letter of access from the Grandmaster of Flame from the Temple of Nemesis, it costs one gold coin to enter to enter the Library.
Once inside, there is a large area containing cold stone desks and benches, where the few human guards and librarians spend most of their time at stone desks. Usually there will be a dozen or so scholars here also, transcribing some arcane lore from books located and dragged into this well-lit room.
From here, a single stone and book lined passage takes one into the library proper. It splits, and splits again, and again, in an almost fractal pattern, to form a lattice of stone, space, and books. Occasionally, a small room will be encountered, holding all possible books on an extremely obscure topic, such as ear-spoons of the early Elven Queens, or the uses of holly bark to heal shape-changers.
It is said that every book ever written exists in the library, and none have disputed this, for none have found the end limits of the library space. The areas within about 2 kilometres of the entrance are reasonably well known, and librarians can point visitors to appropriate locations for common, or not so common, inquiries. Beyond this ‘mapped’ area, the library continues, and the books get more eclectic and dustier. Passages twist back on themselves, climb lower or higher to new levels, and rarely, hidden doors or secret passages have been found, giving readers access to ancient, unimagined tomes. It is postulated that the furthest reaches of these tunnels must be situated in both past and future time, to contain all books. Malgras of Alholm was once lost for two weeks in a section ‘somewhere to the left’ after he stumbled into a rotating section of corridor. He stumbled through several hidden passages, finding a section containing only Nikkar rune painted animal skins, before somehow finding a familiar room. For him, though, the time seemed only like a few days, and as he had only a small water bottle, it seems as though something strange happened. He did not re-enter the library, ever.
There are those that have not managed to return to daylight, and die quietly amongst the shelves. Some are said to rise again as strange undead curators of the library, and many who brave the outer reaches have spotted these wraith-like entities, gliding along the passages, seemingly caring for the books, and preventing their decay or destruction. It is thought that they flock to places where books are being damaged, and those removing books may be required to somehow convince the wraith that what they are doing is acceptable.
The library is known to have been in existence during the height of the reign of the Ancients, but is obviously not scaled to their size and therefore was not built, or used, by them. No other civilisations at that time would have the power or the interest in constructing such a place. Perhaps there is a book in some distant corner that details its construction and purpose?