The Sunless Archive
A massive building stands before you, made of pitch-black granite. It looms above the skyline of the nearby houses. A large windowless monolith. This is it. This is what you’ve been looking for. The Sunless Archive, the largest repository of knowledge along the Salt Coast.
Just inside the entrance is a spacious hall, where shelves packed with books line the walls. Each bookcase has a desk in front of it, facing in towards the room. Behind each desk, scribes sit dutifully at work, transcribing old text onto fresh paper.
As you step in, a door slams open and a flock of paper races through the air. They zoom past your head and vanish through an arched passage further down the hall. Escaped refugees from a binding too weary to contain them. No one in the room seems to care. It must be a common occurrence.
Unsure of where to go, you walk up to a desk. A young woman is sitting behind it, copying something from a discolored page into a large ledger. She has long, black hair pinned up to a ball. A set of spectacles rests on her nose. Not wanting to interrupt, you patiently wait for her to finish.
Eventually, she wipes the nib of her quill on a piece of cloth and looks up at you. You hand her the writ from Antioch. She reads it for a moment, then peers at you over her spectacles.
“Very well,” she says, tucking the paper into an inner pocket of her robe. “Is this your first time in the archives?”
She gives a resigned sigh. Pushing back her chair, she gets to her feet. “Alright, follow me.”
You follow her all the way to the end of the chamber, to a large set of double doors. She pushes one of them open, and for the first time, you’re in the archives.
It’s an enormous chamber, bigger than you’ve ever seen, and it’s filled with books. Shelves upon shelves of books. You look up and see the ceiling five stories up. Spiraling staircases twist and turn in all directions, and surrounding them are ever more books. All around the library, burning spheres floats calmly through the air, providing a dim light.
Your guide moves quick and purposefully through the labyrinth of bookshelves.
As you make your way through the archive, you pass a large stone door. It’s enwrapped with chains and locks, everything covered with intricate sigils. It stands out from the rest of the archive. What inside a library could possibly need that much protection?
“It’s not something we talk about,” the scribe says as if hearing your thoughts.
You open your mouth to say something, but she cuts you off.
“In here,” she says, shepherding you into a reading nook. “Take a seat.”
She moves briskly to the shelf opposite you, pulls out a large tome, and places it on the desk in front of you.
“You’ll find ink and quill in the cupboard over there,” she gestures toward a corner. “Have you brought your own paper?”
You show her the stack of papers in your bag.
She nods with approval.
“Good. I’ll be back in an hour to get you.” She turns and walks back in the direction you came from. Slowly, her footsteps fade into silence.
You take a deep breath and look down at the book in front of you. It’s exactly the one Antioch was talking about. You flip to a random page and begin to read, but you find you cannot keep the focus. Through every word, there is only one thing you can think about. What’s behind the stone door?