As it is written: “At Winter Solstice within the Year of the Scarlet Witch wise men shall gather to stand between Darkness and Light.”
23 Nightal, 1491 DR
Candlekeep is a towered fortress library that stands on a crag, looking down upon the Sea of Swords. The library is filled with books and scrolls, and it was the home of the great seer Alaundo. The keep was once ruled by the Keeper of the Tomes, who is assisted by the First Reader—second in authority and traditionally the most learned sage of the monastery. Up to eight Great Readers are governed by these two offices. These in turn are assisted by the Chanter, who leads the endless chant of Alaundo’s prophecies, the Guide, and the Gatewarden, who deals with visitors, security, and supplies for the community. Clergy are regarded as honored guests but are not part of the monastery’s hierarchy.
Alaundo began making recorded prophecies in -2 DR, when he left his family to live as a hermit and shepherd in the Dales. His prophecies were recorded in private over the next seventy-five years. Legend says that Alaundo saw a vision of his own impending death, so he journeyed to Candlekeep to donate his records for posterity, arriving in 75 DR. The sages at the library were so amazed by the accuracy of the predictions that starting in 82 DR, the monks there began a never-ending “Chant of the Unfulfilled Prophecies” which has continued nearly uninterrupted to this day. All of Alaundo’s books have been committed to memory by the thirty monks devoted to the task. As a prophecy comes to pass, the monks remove it from their chant.
However, since the Rise of Tiamat, the fortress has been captured by the Cult of the Dragon. it serves as the main headquarters for Rath Modor. With the capture of the great library, Modor has been able to grow in power and knowledge. The Cult wishes to discern the prophecies for themselves, so they allow the Chanters to continue their litany, although they are now forced to whisper their chant within Candlekeep.
The price for any traveler to enter the keep is merely a precious book. Those wishing to examine a work in the keep’s library must gift Candlekeep with a new tome, valued by the shrewd gatekeepers of Candlekeep at no less than 1,000 gp. The monks of Candlekeep, who call themselves the Avowed, also purchase certain books brought to them and secretly commission agents and smugglers to procure writings they desire.
No visitor can remain in Candlekeep for more than a tenday at a time, or re-enter the monastery less than a month after leaving it. Visitors are forbidden to write in the library, but the monks scribe copies for visitors in good standing. Copying costs 100 gp per text, or 10,000 gp for spellbooks or any texts containing spells, magical formulae, or details for rituals, wards, command words, and the like.
Rowan has many contacts within several different networks in Northern Faerûn, including the Avowed. Her liaison at Candlekeep is a Halfling named Bedouin. She had smuggled more than one tome for the Halfling into the fortress. And so when she sent word through the usual methods, she was somewhat surprised that he did not reply for two days. However, on 25 Nightal, near the hour of noontime, the Halfing’s raven arrived with his reply.
“Well met,” read the letter. The script was Bedouin’s usual small and neat handwriting, printed entirely in Luiric, the Halfing’s native language. “Thank you for sending word of your Grandfather, I hope that he is well.” The reference, of course, was code for her request about the artifact. The keyword “Grandfather” usually referred to something of great value, in this case the Skull of Alaundo. “I recently had the opportunity to discuss your Grandfather’s whereabouts with two other acquaintances. Spider Pericolo Topolino of Mithril Hall asked of him a few tendays ago and then more recently the Highlord Nezznar, the Black Spider. I had to inform both of them that your Grandfather has been out of my reach for quite some time.”
The letter then switches to a discussion of a “book.” Again, Rowan understands that Bedouin is still referring to the Skull, but continues to speak in smuggler’s code.
“As for the book you requested, I apologize that it has taken so long to get back to you. I am very busy following the orders of our most honorable Master Rath Modar. The particular book you seek was stolen in 1370 and lost until recently when the Cult of the Dragon started gathering a hoard of treasure to offer Asmodeus in return for the release of Tiamat from the Nine Hells. I was able to locate a ledger which indicates that the item you seek was being transported on a barge known as Skyreach Castle. Skyreach was besieged by the folk heroes known as the Neverwinter Nine, and it crash landed in the Serpent Hills a few months before Tiamat emerged triumphant from her bondage.”
“However, I uncovered records that tell me that your item of interest did resurface in the possession of a Drow Elf named Mazzanoble, an agent of the Lords of Waterdeep. When the masked lords were dethroned and replaced by agents of the Dragon Cult, Mazzanoble was forced into turning over the precious items that has always been his duty to protect. One of these items was the one that you seek! I do know that the item was transported to a small village northwest of the Deepwash called Surkh. Beneath the streets of Surkh lies the Shrine of the First Lizard, a temple of Tiamat. I have confirmed that the item you seek resides there. That is why it took so long to return your message as I asked my comrade, Bryn Lightfingers, to locate the item. Her divination spells have confirmed that the item resides within the temple.”
“Unfortunate as it is, I must inform you that the temple will not allow outsiders to access the item that you seek. I fear that I cannot be any further assistance to you. However, if you wish to travel to Surkh to see the sites in the future, Candlekeep maintains regular trade with the village. They import weapons and armor in exchange for seafood. We are always looking for logistic partners.”
As usual, the Halfling ended the letter with his thumbprint. However, Rowen noticed that the print had something odd about it. After some thought, she noticed that it was outlined with lettering that had to be exposed to flame to reveal it’s ink. She watched as spidery script appearanced before her, Bedouin’s handwriting in the rare script of the Drow. It was a simple phrase, but it sent a chill through her.
“Khaless nau uss.”
… simply translated …
“Trust no one.”