During the long journey to the Librarian’s home, we had each guessed what it might look like. Faladel had suggested a large classic library, Briareth had gone with an impressive tower, and I’d guessed a little cave since getting building supplies up here, even with magic, would be no small feat.
I guess I was closest, because the hut is neither impressive or classic in any manner. In fact, it looks rather ramshackle, almost like it was made out of badly stacked driftwood. The only decoration on the outside is a small sign with “No Charlatans, but adventurers welcome” scratched on.
Briareth knocks on the door, and nobody answers. A worrying thought occurs to me. “Are you sure he’s not dead? I know you guys said elves don’t die of old age, but what if he was mauled by a bear or something? Or he just starved here one winter?”
Faladel frowns, considering my point. But Briareth is confident “There’s no way he died that easily. This dude has been alive for what, a thousand years? He knows better than to get mauled by a bear or not stock enough food.”
“Accidents can happen.” Faladel chimes in, taking my side.
Briareth sighs. “Well there’s one simple way to solve this.” He replies, and opens the door. Inside is a single small room. It has dust everywhere, but fresh flowers in a vase on a table. A cabinet holds untouched dishes, there’s a small tub on a counter, probably for washing things, and a neatly made bed. The rest of the room is empty, and a tunnel in the back wall leads deeper into the mountainside.
I go to the table with the flowers, touching one of their petals. It doesn’t disintegrate or anything, and feels alive. “Is this more elven magic?” I ask Faladel and Briareth, “The rest of the room doesn’t look like it’s been touched for years.”
Briareth hmms. Faladel answers, “I don’t know of any spell that would create that effect, but it’s quite possible one could.”
We poke around the room a little more, before we realize there are no hidden surprises here, and decide to head down the tunnel. It’s long. It’s dark. And, as we start going deeper into the mountain, It’s cold too. Eventually, we turn a corner and see a light at the end of the tunnel. Moving forward into it, we find ourselves in a huge cavern filled with books. Long shelves of them, reaching all the way up to the ceiling, fill most of the floor space in front of us. Piles of unshelved books with small trails between them fill the rest of it. The only proper place to sit is a small desk directly in front of us, and it’s currently occupied. The man in it’s one seat appears to be engrossed in his book. Like all the other elves I’ve seen, his facial features show no sign of his age, and although his hair glows silver in the light of the floating lamps illuminating the library, his presence feels younger than Faladel’s father’s did.
“Um… Hi!” Briareth says, addressing him and stepping forward into the room. “Are you the librarian here? We were hoping you could tell us–”
The man doesn’t even let him finish the sentence. “Roll a dexterity saving throw, all of you.” He says, flipping a page in his book.
Faladel and I follow Briareth in as he asks, “What do you mean? We don’t have anything to roll.”
The Librarian sighs, a long suffering sigh. “Why does nobody bring their dice to games anymore? I always bring extra sets to the first session, but never to the second. In the future, bring your own.” He pulls open a drawer in the desk and tosses three pouches at us. “Roll the D20, I’ll calculate your modifiers.”
After seeing us fumble with all the dice inside, he sighs again and says, “It’s the one with the most sides. Just roll it on the floor and tell me the numbers.” He picks up a very strange looking quill and removes a book from the table to reveal a small stack of papers that he spreads out in front of him.
I get a twenty, Faladel gets a fourteen, and Briareth gets a seven. After we tell him our numbers, the Librarian looks at us for the first time, a mischievous grin on his face, and a twinkle in his silver eyes. Without further ado, he presses a button. I glance around nervously, not liking the way he smiled, and am the first to notice a giant ax swinging towards us from the ceiling.
“LOOK OUT!” I holler, leaping forward out of its path. Faladel lunges forward behind me. Briareth looks up, sees the ax coming toward his face, and attempts to dodge, but trips and falls flat instead. Luckily the rope swinging the ax is short enough that it doesn’t kill him, but it does get quite close.
“Success, success, and another success, albeit barely. You’re lucky you have a good modifier.” The Librarian’s eyes flick towards Briareth, who’s carefully excraiting himself from beneath the still slightly swinging ax, and the Librarian nods, satisfied. “You’ve all survived the ax trap. As you may have guessed, I am the Librarian, and this is my Library. What can I help you adventurers with?”
“What the heck was that ax thing about?! It could have killed us!” I shout at him, more angry than I thought I’d be over Briareth’s near demise.
“Yes, but it didn’t. Is there a problem with that outcome?”
“Nope, nope. We’re good.” Briareth says, pulling himself to his feet and gesturing at me to calm down.
“I’m surprised everyone always falls for it, I’m sure I told the last group of people to warn anyone else to roll perception before entering.” The Librarian comments. “But, seeing as you didn’t even bring dice, I imagine that would have been a bit difficult.”
I think back to our conversation with the elf King who directed us here. I feel like he might’ve mentioned something about dodging weapons? Maybe? “You still shouldn’t activate traps at visitors who are coming to gain information, whether they’ve been warned or not!” I say hotly.
“The traps help prove your worthiness.” The Librarian rises from his chair and bookmarks the story he had been reading before closing it.
“Can’t you make it easier? Or less lethal?” I protest.
“If the knowledge isn’t worth risking your life for, anyone could get their hands on it.” He replies, still perfectly calm.
“I–I–” I have no response for that sort of logic. I mean it is his information we’re after, and he is the only one who knows it. So I guess what he says goes? But it still feels so unfair.
“Should we expect any more traps?” Faladel asks calmly. Well, more calmly than I feel.
“Roll Insight.” The Librarian responds. Faladel rolls his dice again, coming up with a twelve. “Does it look like I have room for any more traps?” He asks, once we tell him the number. I then realize that the part of the room where the ax swung down is suspiciously free of books and bookcases, unlike the rest of the room. I suppose that means we’re safe then?
The Librarian walks over to us. “Enough with the niceties though. Balderk Ungart, Briareth Herbalar, and Faladel Mithrandir, what brings you three to my abode?”
After a second where we all glance at each other, confused that he counts talking about traps as niceties, surprised that he knows our names, and debating who exactly should be our spokesperson. Faladel eventually steps forward to meet him answering the question. “We’re here to learn about the history of the war. Specifically how it started, and anything that we can do to end it.”
“Besides wiping each other out I presume?” The Librarian raises one eyebrow at us.
I think Faladel rolls his eyes slightly, but I can’t be sure. “Yes, besides that.”
“Roll Persuasion.” The Librarian says.
“Just me or…” Faladel hesitates, glancing at the rest of the group.
“Anyone who wants to ask me questions.” The Librarian says, waving us off and moving towards one of the bookstacks, grabbing the book he’d been reading on his way.
Faladel rolls. “A one.” He reports.
The Librarian snorts. “Nobility background or not, no modifier can help that roll.”
I guess that higher rolls are better than lower rolls than. I toss my dice onto his desk praying for another twenty. I get a twelve instead. “Decent, but nothing special.” is the Librarian’s comment. Next Briareth rolls.
“Eighteen!” He says proudly.
“Now we’re talking!” The Librarian grins. Glancing down at his desk again to pick up the dice he lent me, I notice the sheets he had pulled out earlier still on his desk.
“What’s this?” I ask, pointing at them.
“You are not allowed to see that.” The Librarian says sternly, swooping in and snatching the papers from in front of me.
“But–” I protest.
“It’s none of your business.” He interrupts.
“One of them had my picture on it” I press.
“Are you going to make me repeat myself a third time?” he says coldly, storing them in an inner pocket. I sigh, but don’t protest further. We need the information he has more than I need to satisfy my curiosity.
“Good Man.” The Librarian pats my head. I frown at his back as he moves in front of us, through the narrow pathways between the shelves. I follow, exchanging a bemused look with Briareth. After having us grab him a ladder, and climbing up it to put his book on the tallest shelf, the Librarian heads towards another shelf.
“Umm… What about–” Faladel starts, but the Librarian shushes him.
“Hush Princeling, you didn’t roll high enough, so you don’t get to talk. Have Briareth Herbalar or Balderk Ungart speak for you.”
Faladel’s eyes widen, and he opens his mouth to protest, but the Librarian says “Ah-ah-ah. I’m just going to ignore anything that comes out of your mouth, so it’s better to have a friend ask me.” Then he turns to Briareth. “You had questions for me? Now that I’ve put away my book, I’m free to answer them.”
“Yep–” Briareth hesitates, “A lot of questions actually, and not all of them on topic.”
“That’s to be expected, ask away.” The Librarian says, waving one hand at us.
“How do you know our names? We never introduced ourselves.” Briareth begins
“Unfortunately, that’s one of the few questions I’m not allowed to answer.” The Librarian replies, “Try again.”
“How many questions do I have?”
“As many as you want, but I won’t answer certain ones.”
“Which ones?” Briareth presses
“Anything to do with rules, limitations, or my abilities.” The Librarian ticks each topic off on his fingers. “Also any ones I deem that your roll wasn’t high enough for.”
“Okay, how about…” Briareth hesitates again. “Well, I’m not sure how to word this, but a dragon once told me that there is a world outside this one, and he’d been there.”
Faladel’s eyes widen. “What’s Briareth talking about?” I whisper to him.
“When we were going home, we met an old dragon living in a mountain who’d been to a world that’s apparently outside our own. He brought back strange devices to prove it. We saw no reason to doubt him.” Faladel mutters back.
“…and how I could get there?” Briareth finishes asking.
“So You’ve met Smayhellionthostvalleysonknoll?” The Librarian shoots us a watchful look. “I was the one who first led him and Morthose to the outside world. Quite to their detriment unfortunately. They died. However, yes, if you really wish to get there, I can show you a path. Giving instructions would be hard, as no doubt the landmarks have changed since I’ve last been there.”
“But they didn’t die, Smay at least hasn’t.” Briareth says, obviously confused.
“He has, and yet he hasn’t. I will say no more.” The Librarian replies
“Can’t or will not?”
“Will not, you don’t have a high enough roll for that. Maybe if you had Faladel’s natural bonuses it would be enough. But he rolled a one so you don’t get that information.”
Briareth harrumphs. Faladel goes silent again, probably thinking. The Librarian looks morose. I, however, decide to get the group back on topic.
“What about the war’s beginnings?” I ask. The Librarian glances at me, and then at Briareth, startled out of his dour mood. Briareth nods, and he says.
“For that information, I’ll need a small favor in return.”
“What?” Briareth asks, “I thought we’d already passed your tests.”
“This isn’t a test.” The Librarian explains. “The information is lost to the outside world, and if you want to reveal it, you’ll have to find something of mine that’s also lost.” Briareth looks like he’s about to protest, but the Librarian continues “It’s a simple enough trade lost item for lost knowledge. Both have a good chance of being found.”
“What is it?” Briareth sighs, giving in.
“A small red book on the topic of magical mind casting. It’s a rare talent that allows a person to throw their consciousness into a lower intelligence creature or a mechanical being. This book was written mainly as a joke by a friend of mine to play on future mind casters. However, since it’s such a rare ability, it’s also the only book devoted to the subject.”
“What?” Briareth Faladel and I exclaim. The Librarian shushes Faladel again.
“How do powers like that even exist?!” I ask, nobody answers.
“Doesn’t that sound exactly like Adamar?” Briareth asks Faladel. Faladel nods.
Ignoring our confusion, the Librarian continues with his book description.
“It’s called It’s On! With a little exclamation point at the end, and the author’s pen name was Lathside Moughron, no not spelled M-O-R-O-N Briareth Herbalar,” The Librarian answers Briareth’s muffled giggles “although he would be quite pleased you got the joke so fast. It’s spelled M-O-U-G-H-R-O-N.” I think about it for half a second, and then join in the giggles. Faladel looks mildly disapproving about the whole thing, much like the Librarian.
“Who wrote it?” Briareth asks, after he was able to catch his breath. “Or did I not get a high enough persuasion for that either.”
“You did not have a high enough persuasion.” The Librarian confirms “However, I’ve already mentioned him to you, and it’s quite possible you know him.”
“It can’t be Smay.” Briareth mutters, “Who else did he mention?” He asks me, I shrug.
Ignoring our side conversation, the Librarian continues describing the book. “Although the book is red, its spine has some gold filigree, and the title and author’s name are also in gold. I know I saw it relatively recently, so it should be on one of these three shelves.” He points out three shelves near us and finishes. “The sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll finish.”
So, we get started. Faladel suggests we try to find it based on the author’s last name, and then the subject matter if that didn’t pan out, but it only takes a few minutes to determine that the Librarian didn’t seem to shelve these books in any real order at all. Parts of the first shelf are alphabetically organized, but then Briareth found a bunch of D–last names right next to the S–last names. After that, the shelves just seemed to spiral into chaos.
It takes two hours of searching, scanning titles, and moving ladders before I finally find it hiding on the bottom row of the second bookshelf. It was between two books by Dr. Suss, The Rat in the Hat and A Beginner’s Guide to Green Eggs and Spam. When I ask the Librarian how on earth it got between what looks like children’s stories, he requested the books’ names. After I told him, he simply said, “Oh dear, I must have shelved it when I was still organizing based on rhyme scheme.”
He places the newly found book on a stack on his desk and gets up, turning to face us. “You all wished to hear about the very beginning of the war, yes?”
“And any ways that we might be able to stop it, like a treaty we can agree upon.” Briareth chimes in.
The Librarian nods, “Very well then, let me tell you the story. You all may want to sit down,” He says, gesturing to the room as a whole, instead of any particular area we can sit. “for this will take quite a while.” The movement of his hand sends sparks flying out his fingertips. Faladel sits on the floor, Briareth and I perch on tiny bookstacks. The Librarian hesitates, staring at the three of us. “Better yet, let me show you the story.” He snaps his fingers and the sparks freeze, shiver, and then fuse together forming a picture of a young man’s face. I stare at it, entranced by its detail and depth. He flicks his fingers at us, and the face zooms forward until it’s all that I can see. Then the softly smiling face consumes me, and I am merged into it and sent to another time.