1507 DR – Waterdeep’s Bardic College of New Olamn (15 years ago)
“Alexis! How many times have I told you not to bother the students? One day you will get in trouble if you keep sneaking in during the lessons.”
“It’s really no trouble, Mistress Farskies,” interjected the dean. “This young man is discreet enough. It’s no strain to have him sit quietly with us.”
“It’s a strain if I say it is!” The woman caught herself raising her voice. “My apologies, sir. But he is ten years old already. He must learn a craft, provide for himself.”
Alexis kept his head bowed. He was supposed to be apprentice to the kitchens, but he had taken every opportunity to sneak out lately. Cooking and recipes were an amusing diversion, but he had taken to the written word since he learnt to spell.
The college was a treasure pile in that regard. The bards were mostly taught lore and stories by oral tradition, but the academy’s libraries were filled with lesser-known tales. Whenever he was tasked to deliver drinks to the teacher lounge or refill the headmaster’s scones and tea, he would vanish as soon as his task was done. Hours later, he would reappear with dusty clothes and a head full of dreams. There was something calling to him in these books.
1514 DR – Waterdeep’s Bardic College of New Olamn (8 years ago)
Alexis roamed the attics of the honored building, looking for rare tales and forgotten epics. He had made good coin recently, copying song lyrics and poems for the master bards. Enough at least to assuage his parent’s doubts. When he did eventually quit the apprenticeship at the nearby mill, they were convinced that there would be no other trade willing to take him. But after spending his whole young life with book and quills, he had developed a pleasing writing hand, as well as a fast one.The books here were property of the college, and while there were given to read freely to all members, it was not permitted to bring them away, out of concern for the venerable pages’ safety.
Since Alexis had been spotted copying passages by one of the teacher’s, he had been recommended to visitors to use his services if they wanted to leave with a written record, without having to spend hours in front of a pulpit themselves.
He took a break to sit down in the dusty air, and open The True and Honest Tale of Gareth Dragonsbane, Slayer of Evil (by Riordan Parnell), and started skimming through. This book wasn’t as well written as Alexis had hoped–the dialog was complete nonsense. It was well known that Lord Dragonsbane hailed from Darmara, why would he have mentioned New Olamn in the first place? Re-reading the sentence gave the young man a chill. “Would you stay in dusty New Olamn all your life, Alexis? Or would you learn grander truths?”
Feeling dizzy, he put down the book and took a breath. A prank, certainly? Although he did excavate this particular volume from under a rather old pile of molding tomes. Picking it up, he started at the beginning of the paragraph again.
“So it is that evil dies by my blade, wicked Zhengyi. You may be witch-king, but I bear the power of Ilmater, whom is not so easily dissuaded by your sorcery!” The next rhymes were awful; had he imagined it?
He turned a few pages.
“Of course, the real Gareth was nothing like this. Less pompous, certainly, but almost a blunt fool. The author gifted him much credit with such a long tirade.” The young man blinked, the words were gone, replaced by a lengthy description of Lord Dragonsbane’s horse.
A chapter later.
“Wouldn’t you like to know what really occurred that day? The one and only copy of Olwen Forest-Friens’s memoires are hidden in the trash heap that is the ‘Adventurer’s Journals’ shelve.”
“This must be a dream,” muttered the young man. Still he did stumble to the designated place. It took a solid ten minutes of careful cataloging, but he did find it. An old leather-bound parchment, penned by a hero of old. Not contradicting the official story, perhaps…but it didn’t have the same benevolence toward its subject matter. The events were the same, just not…quite the same? It was exhilarating. Suspecting, knowing something that others didn’t.
This time, it appeared in the midst of the records of a great tourney. “Have you ever wondered how Gilgeam became the god-king of Unther? Have you ever thought it strange that he achieved this without help?”
At this point, Alexis had made his own unofficial curated library of secrets in the archives of New Olamn. He had amassed a sizable collection of old tomes and lore, extracted from the abandoned depth of the institution’s attics.
But he did feel an angst. As if something was eluding him. His mysterious friend, “the Voice” as he had started to call it, hadn’t manifested in a while. He hadn’t slept well for some time now. Worst of all, he hadn’t found anything new to read lately. He gave a sigh, and picked up his own journal, and read the day’s entry.
“It is time. Go to Candlekeep and find me, or stay a mere bard’s copyist forever.”
A tenday later.
“So, it’s goodbyes, then?”
“Yes dad. I have to do this, you know?”
“I guess so. Here.” The man lobbed a cloth package up to his son, sitting on the roof of the coach car. “Your mom made them for you. It’s hard for her to see you go like this.”
“Thanks dad. I’m sorry…I wished there was more time.”
“You’ll always have a bed here, if things don’t work out.”
“I know. Tell mom I love her…”
“Love you, dad.”
“Me too, son.”
1516 DR – Candlekeep (6 years ago)
“And so while you are not an avowed yet, young Alexis, but in recognition for the quality in your service of two years, you will be granted your own cell in the monk’s quarters.”
“Many thanks, First Reader. It is very gracious, and I’m humbled by your praise.”
“So it is, young man. Not all apprentices have proper respect for knowledge. You have demonstrated yourself trustworthy, and so shall be rewarded accordingly. You will be given access to the upper libraries, as well as the scriptorium. Remember though that the Vault is forbidden. Only avowed selected by me or the Keeper of Tomes may pass its doors. Some things in these halls need to be protected, and some others we provide protection against.”
“So you decree, so we follow, honored First Reader.”
The wizened old woman smothered a smile. “You may yet make a decent avowed yourself one day, young Alexis. Do persevere in your studies.”
The avowed in charge of the scriptorium pushed the rowdy visitor toward the door. “You have paid, now let the man work. If you insist in causing a ruckus in here, you will be refused access to our libraries altogether. Have I made myself clear?”
Alexis focused on the lines in front of him, trying to block out the loudmouth’s screams, and resumed his copy.
Alexis blinked. He recognized this handwriting by now. Taking a breath in, he straightened his back, and read the rest of the page.
“Tonight. Tonight. Tonight.” The whole document was a mess of jumbled “Tonight!” statements, crawling on top of each other, arranged in eye-watering contraptions of ink and letters.
Alexis felt him head spin. He closed the volume and stood up. “Master, I’m sorry. I…I may need to go rest.” He was pale, his eyes heavy and dark.
The old monk nodded. “Brother Finn will finish for you. Go lie down.”
Candlekeep was quiet. The full moon outside was high and bathed the barren country with an otherworldly light.
Alexis startled awake from a feverish dream. He couldn’t recall, but it felt like falling through an endless ocean of dark. He could see as well as day in the usually unlit room. Something stirred inside him, a burning need. He was already sitting up, risen halfway from his bed before even awakening.
On a hunch, he slotted his journal on the leather strap of his belt before leaving the cell. He added to it his leather purse and well. Was he going out? At this hour? He chased the thought from his mind.
He stumbled out into the great hall.
Few were still roaming the great libraries. Only the attendants of the Vault never slept, for they were sworn to the safety of its content. Alexis walked aimlessly. His heart was pounding in his chest, ready to burst. He had a horrid presentiment, of something vital yet forgotten.
A hand landed on his shoulder, and he almost screamed.
“Oh. It’s you. Feeling better?”
He turned around and came face to face with the head of the scriptorium. “Ye..Yes, master. Sorry for earlier.”
The old monk sighed and shook his head. “Never mind that, my boy. I know you can do good work, but I’m concerned. Your recent copies did contain oddities and scratched sentences. I hope you can deal with whatever is bothering you. We need able hands at the copy pulpits.”
“I know. I’ll do my best.”
The avowed gave a pat the young man’s shoulder. “Then try and get some rest. I can’t have you wander all night, if you are to stay awake in front of your work.”
Alexis bowed, and scurried away.
He was crossing the west hall when he found it. A simple volume, with a grey cover, lying on the ground, not far away from the Vault’s entrance. His field of view contracted on it, and he found himself running to it.
Out of breath, he leaned down and grabbed the book. Touching it felt like restoring a severed sense. Like breathing again after being held underwater. Everything seemed to stop around him.
He opened it and read the only sentence present.
“Alexis. My pupil.”
He heard it in his mind. A rich, deep voice seemingly coming from the words themselves. Startled, he closed the book with a ‘thud’ and moved back through the main hall, to his cell.
“What do you have here?” The head of the scriptorium held an open hand to Alexis.
“I…um, I just…”
“Yes, master.” Alexis hated to let go of it. It was almost revolting. He did let it go to the grasp of the avowed, still.
“Ha,” the old monk chuckled, “just an empty practice ledger, hey? You could have taken one from the scriptorium, you know?”
Empty? Alexis felt physically sick. He wanted it back. Now. But he forced himself to smile.
“I guess so, but…I was on my way already. Just wanted something to write while in my cell. Could I have it back?”
The monk raised an eyebrow, then shook his head. Was the young man acting strangely?
“Very well. But don’t let me catch you out at night again. Now, to your room.”
“Thank you, master.”
As soon as he had crossed through a corner in the hallway, he opened his book feverishly. Then he saw it.
And so, he did.
1521 DR – somewhere ( 1 year and a half ago)
“Then, your eyes will accustom to the essence, and you will see the Weave.”
Alexis focused his gaze. A piercing pain had taken over his sight from the previous attempts, but now he felt a breakthrough.
Suddenly, the world exploded in a palette of colors. There were sparkling motes of magical energies racing through the air around him.
As he looked down on his book – his tutor in the art of magic – he saw a deep, calm and somehow distant aura surrounding the paper.
The book itself had changed from time to time. Sometime a hardcover of red fabric. Sometime a leather travelling log with crusted parchments inside. Lately, it was a of a scholarly grey hue, housing impeccable velum sheets.
“This is my gift for you, as well as the magic that I endowed you with.”
The voice was clear and regal when it addressed Alexis. He discovered that he was the only one which could read the book and hear the voice.
To all others, it appeared empty or full of nonsense.
“Now, it’s time for you to do your part once more. If you want more of my gift, you will find more secrets for me. Get on the next caravan east. The lady lord of the city of Teziir is known as a miser and a poor host. He recently started to spend uncounted riches to acquire a simple piece of farmland.
“Find out why. I want to know what lies under the hay-covered ground.”
“It seems to me that we always travel east. How far are you planning to take me from the Sword Coast?”
“Far enough. You don’t need anything from this backward place anymore. There are many hidden things lying in wait around the Sea of Fallen Stars, but we will reach that place eventually. Tell me; have you ever heard of the Order of the Shining Blade?”
1522 – Shining Blade Offices, Lyrabar, Impiltur (1 year ago)
“So, you recovered the artifice?”
“Well, the lad was helpful for sure. Wouldn’t have deciphered the thief’s riddle if he hadn’t pointed out the pattern for us. Very curious too; he had many questions about our job there.”
“You would recommend him? He seems…scrawny.”
“Aye. But aren’t all magicians?”
“Ah, so he is a student of the arcane too, then?”
“Cannot say for sure. He seemed able, and you know me, I cannot tell apart all that flaily-waily hand wavy magical rituals. I’m a dwarf of axe and shield.”
“Hum…we will have to keep an eye on that. Well, if he is as proficient with the quill as you said, we can send him through the academy at least. Mayhap we could make a chronicler out of him.”
–written and submitted by player during character creation