AN INTRODUCTION TO CANDLEKEEP
by Ed Greenwood, 2004
". . . You're but a seeker after knowledge, and we arm all who come here with the weapons of fact and lore and reason-sorted rumor. What they do with such tools after they depart is not our affair; we but seek to arm those wise—or cunning—enough to come asking and looking."
"Who are you?" a shaken Nouméa whispered.
The ring of monks smiled.
"Simple folk of Faerûn who love old books, and learning, and reading the thoughts and hopes and records of beings now dust," Esmer replied.
Nouméa looked around at them all and shook her head. "I think you're among the most powerful and dangerous forces on all Toril."
The monks stopped smiling.
"That, too," Thaerabho agreed lightly. "And knowing that, what will you do now, Lady Nouméa Cardellith, sometime mage and unhappy wife?" More monks were in the reading-room now, drifting towards her from all sides.
Nouméa stared at him for a long time, ignoring the silent assembly of monks and the rods some of them held ready, and then lifted her shoulders in a shrug. "I . . . don't know."
The ring-wall of monks seemed to relax, and a few drifted away again. Thaerabho's smile returned.
"Ah, the truth. The right answer to give us, always."
Nouméa stared into his hazel eyes for a long time, and then drew in a deep breath and asked, "And what do you think I should do?"
"Ah," the sword-scarred monk responded eagerly, as several of the closest monks drew in around her again, reaching in under the great reading-desk to unclip folded wooden stools from its underside and sitting down on them. "Now you've done the next right thing. We'll not tell you what to do next. We never do. We shall, however, tell you all we can to help you decide where to go from here in life."
Lady Nouméa blinked at him. "Why didn't I come here years ago?"
From ELMINSTER'S DAUGHTER
(Ed Greenwood, 2004)
Know, O seeker of knowledge, that there are many libraries in Faerûn, some of them vast and impressive—but there is only one Candlekeep. All who value and treasure knowledge are welcome within its gates, not just those of particular wealth, status, races, or faiths.
Candlekeep is approached by its own road, The Way of the Lion, that runs arrow-straight westwards from The Coast Way, and though the monastery stands alone, far from habitation or amenities—for no lesser creatures than dragons appear out of nowhere, without warning, to destroy structures raised within eyesight of its walls, and sometimes the folk building them, too—that road is rarely lonely save in the worst weather. There are always folk seeking entrance to Candlekeep.
For the first time in his life, Theldrant Ornan cursed the setting sun. It was brighter and more glorious than many a nightfall he'd seen—reflecting vast and gentle fire from clouds that glowed in the sky like so many wispy plumes, and sending it down onto the tireless waves below—but it ruined his first sight of the dark and distant hand that was Candlekeep, dashing it to a mere dark silhouette . . . and it meant he had no hopes of entering those hallowed gates before the morrow.
Before and behind him on the road, the well-dressed mounted parties of wealthier folk than he were already choosing places by the roadside—among the many rings of sitting-stones and fire-scorched ashpits left behind by earlier travellers—to make camp.
Theldrant looked around, seeking cover, and reached for his cloak. 'Twould be a cold night, but better spent alone in the damp darkness than near a fire and so easily found by a brigand's knife.
By the way the Tethyrians ahead of him had been giving Theldrant dark looks all the sundowning half of the day, they judged him a brigand or worse. He'd have no unsharp welcome by their fireside.
With a sigh, he stepped down off the Way of the Lion and out into the lengthening shadows, stopping only once to gaze at the distant towers he sought. Little lights were glimmering in their windows, like so many friendly fireflies.
Theldrant sighed again, and desired morning to rush up and greet him in swift safety.
It is the custom of supplicants approaching Candlekeep to keep some distance apart from other travellers to the monastery, for it is the practise of the monks of Candlekeep to demand a price in return for entrance whose nature requires an interview, and the monks (as well as almost all supplicants) prefer that such dealings be made in the open but in relative privacy. In other words, someone approaching the gate usually stops to remain out of earshot of whoever is at the gate trying to get in—and so on, down the Way of the Lion.
Heralds, priests of Oghma, Deneir, Gond, and Milil, and certain archmages—such as the Chosen—and others deemed “friends of Candlekeep” are admitted without payment, as are those returning to the monastery after having fulfilled the payment on an earlier visit. However, many such persons make it a practise to try to enrich the library of Candlekeep at their every visit anyway. (Moreover, it is the general practise of the monks to try to keep such visitors away from most of the reading-rooms and tome-chambers of Candlekeep.)
The price for entrance into Candlekeep is a book, chapbook, scroll, or fragment of writing not yet in the collection of the monastery. Spellbooks are valued over tomes of non-magical lore, and written works over collections of artwork or maps. Complete works are valued over incomplete, works in good condition and of “notable” content over frivolous, but so long as the writing is something of more worth than idle fiction or diary pages personally scribbled by the supplicant or by someone recent and anonymous, it ‘counts.' Obscure collections of plays or minstrels' sayings, sages' diaries, and local genealogies or accounts of happenings in a village or hamlet are the works most often accepted, these days.
Most sages and heralds elsewhere in Faerûn will describe an appropriate entrance-gift as being a book of not less than 10,000 gp in value, but that misinformation arose from a practise (popular almost a century ago) of magelings penning their own spellbooks, striving to craft a unique arrangement of spells with some variant magics among them, and so gain entrance to Candlekeep. Sages attempted by means of a monetary value to make a general recommendation as to the amount of unoriginal magic a supplicant would need to satisfy the monks of Candlekeep. Such recommendations are outdated.
In certain cases, furnishing the monks with a copy of a work already in the libraries of Candlekeep—but a copy more complete than the already-owned work, or with augmentations, or in far better condition, will be deemed payment of the entry-price. Though the writing is known as “the entrance-gift,” it's not a voluntary gift—come without it, even if promising delivery later, and admittance is not thine.
The arched gates of Candlekeep are as high as three men, and fashioned of spell-shrouded vertical bars of unknown, lightning-repelling black metal (an alloy devised in vanished Netheril, some say) as thick as many human forearms. Both of them bear, centered in their upper third, the castle-and-flames device of Candlekeep, worked of the same metal and joined to the bars, so that each gate seems to have been formed all of a piece rather than being welded or fitted together.
During the daily time of daylight, one of these two gate-panels usually stands open far enough for two thin humans to pass through belly-to-belly, while the other stands shut (and ‘pinned' by bolts slid down into sockets in the solid bedrock beneath). The gap between the panels is customarily guarded by five purple-robed priests, colloquially known as ‘the monks of the gate,' and it is they who greet arriving persons and request the entrance-gift.
One monk will step forth to parley with arrivals, whilst his or her fellows keep watch, ready to unleash spells if need be. The watching monks always use discern lies or more powerful spells of like nature on supplicants, and there will always be monks overseeing the monks of the gate from high towers, ready to send aid or unleash magics.
Many monks of Candlekeep (including at least one member of each gate-guard detail) bear at their belts a rod of absorption or a rod of flame extinguishing . Some senior monks carry rods of negation or other magic items. Many monks of Candlekeep wear rings while on duty guarding doors or areas or shadowing seekers; typically, these are of energy resistance , force shield , invisibility , mind shielding , and ram . (Candlekeep is rumored to have quite an arsenal of magic items, but the monks decline to speak of such matters, and openly use magic only when they must.)
Both gate-duty and the role of parleying are performed in rotation, and so almost any monk of Candlekeep may be encountered by a visitor at the gates, but among those often performing such services are the tall and impressive Amanther (a wizard practised in the talent of swiftly recognizing spells by the first moments of their castings—through the gestures, incantations, and components involved—or of their manifesting magical effects), the jovial, hand-rubbing Larth (who's a shrewd judge of human character, and accomplished in more than a dozen languages, possessing smatterings of a dozen more), and the gray-haired, burly Thaerabho (whose right cheek is sword-scarred, and whose expertise is the doings of those who wield magic in Faerûn outside temples and priesthoods). Among any duty-group of monks of the gate will be some able to use tongues , others who can cast true seeing , a few battle-competent wizards or sorcerers (many of Candlekeep seem to favour employing various power word spells), and at least one who can dimension door to deliver a message or item in an emergency (the wards of Candlekeep prevent most translocational spells from working, but there are specified spots and ‘paths' between them that the wards leave open, and those who know them can successfully teleport from one to another—whereas someone unaware of these would fail, and be stunned by the attempt).
Most supplicants know the price of entry, but to those who do not, the parleying monk will politely make it known, and examine any book proffered on the spot.
A supplicant who is refused will be spoken to politely, usually with some variation on the words: “The fire for knowledge lives in us all, and it is with regret that we must refuse this gift/deny your entreaty/turn you from our gates at this time. Return again when you can, with hope, for we desire not to bar any true seeker who can meet the rules of Candlekeep.”
A supplicant who is accepted is customarily greeted with the words: “You are most welcome within our walls, seeker of wisdom,” and then asked their name, land (that is, title and affiliation, as well as residence), and their “intent within.” The answer given to this last question often tells the monk something of the supplicant's own knowledge—for the wisest and most honest will openly name specific topics they desire to see lore about, or even specific texts they wish to consult.
The supplicant is then termed a ‘seeker,' and is immediately and thereafter addressed by the name they give to the parleying monk; if they prefer the monks of Candlekeep to call them by some other name, and request this, they will be politely questioned as to their reasons for the change (in an interview covertly observed by other monks employing mind-reading or at least discern lie magics). Monks not knowing or remembering the name of particular seekers will usually address them as “goodsir” or “goodlady.”
The parleying monk usually personally escorts a seeker ‘into' the gate (that is, into the gap between the two halves of the gate) and then says: “Be welcome here, [name], so long as you treat books with the reverence they deserve, eschewing fire, damp, the torn page, and the removal of lore from the eyes of others. Cross the yard ahead of you to the green-hued door, and give your name to the Keeper of the Emerald Door. You'll be provided with food, a bath, quarters in which to sleep, and a moot with the monk who will escort you on your first visit to the rooms of the tomes.”
Keen blue eyes seemed to pierce right through Theldrant, laying bare his every secret and sordid deception, large and small. The monk kept that lance of a gaze on the young man as he unlaced the thongs Theldrant had so painstakingly tightened, sealing-wax falling in a shower of flakes under his busy fingers.
“Ah,” the monk said at last, letting his gaze fall for just an instant to the gilded letters graven into the front cover of the book that had cost Theldrant so much. “Maskauman's Black Tome of Magely Might . A handsome volume, and in superb condition . . . seemingly complete, yes . . . it even has the three blank endpapers intact.” He turned it in his hands as if his very fingertips had eyes as piercing as those transfixing the young supplicant. “Yet I fear this is a book Candlekeep owns more than a score of copies of already, deeded to us by dozens of dead Amnian merchants over the years. A princely book, to be sure, and I suggest you try to find a prince who wants one—for only such a one will give you coins enough to match its true worth.”
Theldrant stared at the man in shock, not knowing what to say . . . and knowing he was gaping like a fool.
The book in the monk's hands had cost him every gold coin he possessed, all his earnings for six years of hard copying of ledgers for old Darthus and Naerivrigg, leaving the last living Ornan with only enough silvers and coppers to get himself here, sleeping in the open and eating wildstuffs whenever he could. And they were turning it down?
They couldn't, they mustn't, he—
“I'm sorry,” the monk said gently, sounding as if he truly was, as he placed the book almost reverently back into Theldrant's trembling hands. “It remains a good work and a precious thing, and your wrapping was far better than most we see; the work of one who cares about books, just as we do. Have you nothing else, Theldrant Ornan? No other writing about you, at all?”
Theldrant shrank back, fighting to breathe. How did they know his name?
He'd told the man nothing—gods, those eyes were so blue that—that—
“It is our business to know things, Theldrant. Be not alarmed. I ask again: have you any other writing about you?”
Well, yes, but—Theldrant swung his small pack down off his shoulder with fingers that fumbled to do everything, and dug frantically down past smallclothes that stank, his quill-case, and the sandals that were his only reserve should the heel break off his boot again, to . . . the rotting-book.
He drew it out, face burning, and thrust it at the monk without looking up. It was a battered, mold-gnawed thing that lacked covers and a lot of its pages, and he didn't even know its title. Its leaves bore scrawlings of truly execrable poetry, tortured rhymes not even amusing in their awfulness—and a lot of those pages Theldrant had caused to go missing.
He'd found the slim tome in a market in Elturel, stinking of mold even then, bought it for two coppers just so he could own a book, and regretted that decision ever after.
‘Laboured' was a polite word for the hesitant, lacking-in-all-rhythm rhymes. The poet, whoever he was, seemed to have poured every word that caught his ear into the line he was writing at the time, without thought for meanings or weight or the ‘sound' of words, and—and for the better part of two seasons Theldrant had been tearing pages out of the rotting-book to write his own messages on, setting his own pen crosswise to the fading scrawlings that so set his teeth on edge. There was at least one torn-off half-a-page remnant dangling in there now . . .
The monk was going to throw it at him, and sneer, and say—
“Ah,” the monk said again, this time with a sort of eager glee, and Theldrant winced and turned his face away.
“I can well understand why you wanted to keep this for your own,” his tormentor added, as the stench of book-mold grew strong about them both. “One of the most complete copies of Thalavoon's Spells For My Sworn Mages I've ever seen. Yesss . . . one of the oldest and richest spellbooks known to us. Every leaf bears mighty spells, hidden beneath Thalavoon's little joke-verses, and this one has more than twice the pages of the best copy in our possession. These latter pages will hold spells lost to Faerûn for an age and more. This, Theldrant Ornan, is one of the brightest offerings ever presented at these gates. Are you quite sure you wish to gift it to us?”
His pack was open beneath his face, and quite handy—and Theldrant swallowed and wrestled with his gorge and swallowed again, battling an urge to fill it with his own spew. He'd been tearing up priceless ancient spells and scribbling on them for . . . for . . .
He threw his head back, drew in a deep breath, and managed to say, “Y-yes. Please take it. I am . . . unworthy to carry it. More than you can ever know.”
All monks of Candlekeep who have dealings with the general public (that is, supplicants and seekers not admitted to the Inner Rooms) tend to cultivate low voices, polite but spare speech, and expressionless faces. It is not considered proper for monks of Candlekeep to be anything less than politely grave when first greeting supplicants.
Monks of Candlekeep know and use subtle hand-signals to express such things as: “Stay back”/ “Follow that person” OR “Follow me”/ “Keep watch over this place OR that person”/ “Aid me, please”/ “Yes”/ “No”/ “Danger” . . . and so on.
Fire is the first enemy of all monks of Candlekeep, and those who'd destroy or deface books, mold, damp, and the various worms that gnaw books are their other foes.
Monks of Candlekeep customarily wear soft slippers when indoors at the monastery, and cultivate quiet habits, moving deftly and remaining statue-still for long periods, rather than fidgeting or making idle conversation. Though some monks enjoy smoking and/or drinking, such pursuits are NEVER conducted in the presence of books that might be damaged; some monks go so far as to never touch a book except when masked and/or gloved, to keep their own body moisture from encouraging stains or the growth of mold on precious tomes.
The wind off the sea was strong and smelled of salt—not the dead-fish harbour reek Theldrant was used to. He stopped, there on the vast rising slope of cobbles, and glanced all around.
There were many monks—or at least men and women in robes and slippers of varying hues, all of them a single plain shade rather than bearing patterns or trim adornments—walking singly or in pairs. They were crisscrossing the great courtyard in various directions, walking unhurriedly but all seemingly on a purpose bent. Back behind him, someone—just one, out of that large mounted party—was being let through the gate, and the monks were already stepping forth to speak to the next supplicant who'd reached the gates.
Theldrant shook his head, still sick over what he'd done to the irreplaceable spells in the rotting-book—Thalavoon, had that been the wizard's name?—and turned back to the wall of many-windowed towers.
There was the green door, standing open and with a monk standing leaning his shoulders against it, beside the open doorway. Well, that's where he'd been sent, and he'd better get there before the seeker who'd just been admitted got there, in case the monks marked the order of people, or something . . .
With a sigh, Theldrant strode across the courtyard—and then stopped, very suddenly, after taking a good five strides. What if they could read his mind? What if they were going to flog him, or worse, for what he'd done to the boo—
“Why do you hesitate, goodsir?” a soft voice asked beside Theldrant's ear, more calm than curious.
Theldrant let out a little shriek as he bounded into the air, startled beyond composure, landing with an awkward stumble as he tried to turn and see—
A firm hand caught his arm and halted him, swaying.
It was attached to another monk, a kindly-faced man he'd never seen before—a monk he'd never seen or heard approach.
“There is no need for noise,” the monk said, as if he could hear Theldrant's racing thoughts. “There is never a good reason for noise.”
Candlekeep crowns a long, rising-from-landward ridge of rock that juts out into the Sea of Swords. Its walls rise from the cliffs of hard, purple-black volcanic rock (upon which little grows beyond small tufts of lush moss, and ghostly, glow-by-night crawl-dapple lichens), and enclose a small forest of many-windowed stone towers. Vast and labyrinthine caverns (guarded against intrusions from the Underdark, some say, by the ghost of a dragon and worse things besides) underlie the ridge, and even most of the monks who dwell there know not every hidden door, back passage, and cloaked-in-stone spiral stair of the place. Even the memory of the exact site of the small, humble tower of the seer Alaundo, around which this great fortified monastery grew, has been lost. Few outside the ranks of the monks of Candlekeep even know the true current count of how many towers stand in the monastery.
However, even the awestruck visitor cannot help but notice the major features of the place, which are these: frowning stone fortress walls, enclosing a cobbled courtyard that slopes sharply down from the seaward or western side to the gates, with several small buildings built along the inner sides of the south wall, and a great mass of twenty or more interlinked towers rising in the north half of the walls.
The Emerald Door was only a few paces away now, and the old monk who must be its Keeper was smiling at him, faintly.
That smile broadened when Theldrant suddenly stopped and spun around, looking at the endless Sea of Swords, then at the modest stone bulk of the temple to Oghma the Binder, and then along the row of solid, squat stone buildings back to the gate, and the grass-girt hills of Faerûn beyond. The dark shadows of forests sprawled in their far reaches, and beyond were the hazy purple outlines of distant mountains.
And then, reluctantly, Theldrant's gaze was caught and dragged around to the north again, up to the great mountain of stone towers looming high and dark over him, almost as if it might fall at any moment and crush him and everything behind him for miles, in a great spilling of tumbling stone reaching away south towards Beregost.
At last, when he could gaze no more up at towers full of windows that stared darkly down at him, he looked again at the door before him, and the old man standing there.
Who was still smiling, and who said now, “Be at ease, seeker. You will pass this door and come out again, and Faerûn will still be here, much unchanged from what you see now. Moreover, no tower of this house of learning has fallen on anyone yet.”
Elminster says that last sentence spoken by the Keeper of the Emerald Door isn't quite true, but would be if the word “unbidden” were added at the appropriate spot in the sentence.
As aforementioned, Candlekeep also holds lower, safe buildings (primarily for the use of visitors). Ranged along the south wall of Candlekeep, these include the temple of Oghma, a bathing-hall and common hearth-room (dining hall) for guests (the shrines to Deneir, Gond, and Milil stand as side-chapels to this hearthroom, and are reached through open archways in its walls), sleeping-quarters for guests, stables, and an infirmary.
The House of the Binder is a plain, rather severe rectangular building built of large fieldstone boulders topped with a slate roof. Inside its great iron double doors is a forecourt with three much smaller doors of oak, all leading into the same interior hall.
Aside from alcoves leading to privies built in the narrow space between the temple and the seaward wall of Candlekeep (the temple stands hard against the south wall of the fortified monastery, about four paces east of its west or sea- wall), the interior of the temple of Oghma is a single vast hall, about sixty feet across (east-west) by a hundred feet long.
It is lit by the glowing illusion of a pair of spread, palms-uppermost hands of human male appearance (ending at the wrists, and presumably those of the god himself) that float about twenty feet off the floor at the rear of the temple. The hands are about eight feet long, and float about twenty feet apart, with the space between them being filled by the glowing illusion of an open book. There are no words on the book, and both hands and book can be seen through.
Their light is strongest just beneath them, where there are six plain stone reading-tables and benches, arranged in a ring about a raised, circular stone altar graven with the symbol of the god. It is the practise to leave writings as offerings here (such gifts always vanish, sooner or later), or to kiss the altar and whisper things learned, in reverence to the god.
The rest of the hall is bare, but faithful of Oghma are allowed to camp in it, though they may not cook or make any fire within the temple. In fact, no fire not caused by the hand of a priest of Oghma will ignite, kindle, or remain alight within the temple.
The other buildings along the south wall of Candlekeep are of similar massive stone construction, but inside have lower ceilings, with massive crossbeams. Westernmost (closest to the temple) is the Baths or bathing-hall, fed by a natural spring welling up from the Realms Below, and with its own outside entrance and arch-topped double door to the Hearth. All races and both genders use the baths together, dine together, and share the sleeping-quarters (though in bunking they form their own separations, and can request a monk to watch over them in slumber to ensure others disturb them not).
The Hearth or dining hall is a vast room with circular holes in the ceiling and a great circular firepit surrounded by several smaller firepits (filled with sand and either a blazing fire or a fire laid for lighting). The attic above the Hearth is used as a smokehouse for fish and meats, the smoke rising up through the holes. The hall is filled with an everchanging (rearranged by diners and monks as desired) array of stout wooden tables [of the sort we moderns would call “picnic tables”] having their own built-in bench seats. Tunnels guarded by spells, mysterious guardian creatures, and monks link the Hearth with certain chambers in the cellars of the southernmost towers across the courtyard, where the cooking is done.
Candlekeep fare is plain but good and filling, and usually expertly seasoned: stews, soups, handloaves of hardbread, strong cheeses, and ale are staples, with much use being made of mushrooms grown in the monastery and radishes grown in a walled field nearby to the north, in a bowl valley hidden to most visitors by rising, broken ground. Sea-caves below the monastery contain colonies of sea-turtles tended by the monks for their eggs, which also feature prominently in the monks' cuisine. Eel was formerly a staple, but the creatures have grown very scarce in the waters near the monastery over the last few decades.
The shrines to Deneir, Gond, and Milil all open off the south wall of the Hearth, and take the form of simple rectangular rooms with kneeling-benches of smooth-carved wood, with handrails before them, situated some paces away from raised stone altars. Symbols of the gods are graven into the stone walls behind the altars, bowl-shaped depressions are carved out of all of the altars for use in offerings (some rituals involve small burnings), and a device of the god is often placed upon the altar (or put down on the floor behind it; there are storage crypts for these devices in the floor behind each altar, beneath easily-lifted, marked stones).
The device of Deneir is a floating candle that when lit causes the illusory image of a single staring eye to appear in the air before its base; the device of Gond is a complex machine of many moving parts and processes, that once started into motion continues for a day or more out of its own powers (priests of Gond visit Candlekeep at least annually to ceremonially replace this ‘pleasure of the Maker' with a new one—as so far as is known, these devices serve no useful mundane purpose); and the device of Milil a silver harp that plays by itself when certain prayers are uttered close to it.
Arched double doors link the Hearth with the House of Rest, or living quarters for visitors (the guesthouse or sleeping-hall). Recently rebuilt from a series of separate guesthouses erected over the years, this long, low structure is divided into two levels, with belongings stored in overhead lofts reached through usually-left-open trapdoors by many small, simple stone stairs, and sleeping bunks below. The sleeping-bunks consist of small walled rooms of four bunks, dimly lit by spell-radiances that emanate from the floors. Such rooms have doors that can be closed, privacy-curtains that can be strung, and there are sound-deadening magics here and there to keep shouting, snoring, or sounds of intimacy from spreading far and disturbing many. The sleeping-quarters are tirelessly patrolled by monks, night and day, to prevent thefts, molestations, attacks, and to magically quell noises that might inhibit slumber—and guests are permitted to eat and sleep whenever they desire, not at predetermined times.
The courtyard separating these structures from the fabled towers of the monks is known as the Court of Air (because, the old Candlekeep joke has it, it holds nothing else, and so nothing else “has court there”), and at least twelve towers have doors opening onto it in their walls. The only one of these that customarily stands open by day is a broad, arch-topped green door known as the Emerald Door (it is of dark green hue, but glows with a radiance often described as “inner fire” in fog and darkness; hence its name). Day and night, it is guarded by a duty-monk known as the Keeper of the Emerald Door, who has many runner-monks to call upon to accompany guests (for the Keeper never leaves his post). This post is fulfilled in rotation, but always by shrewd senior monks of Candlekeep possessed of some personal magical aptitude. Runner-monks usually take visitors back across the courtyard to the buildings along the south wall (for the bath, food, and quarters mentioned by the parleying monk at the gate), unless they don't intend to stay the night. Among the runner-monks are many spry, scuttling old men of craggy ugliness—including Morgreth (“MORE-greth”) and Dallow (“DAh-lo”)—and at least one young woman of great strength and beauty, Belabra (“Bell-AB-rah”).
It has been noted by more than one guest that no window of any tower facing the courtyard of Candlekeep is closer to the ground than some sixty feet.
“Well met and welcome, Theldrant Ornan,” the Keeper of the Emerald Door said gently, stepping forward to clasp the awed seeker's forearms. Theldrant knew in an instant this old man, for all his years and wrinkles and kindly expression, could crush or snap his very bones at will—in a trice, and without any trouble at all.
Still holding Theldrant in that unbreakable grip, the Keeper added calmly, “You are blameless for what you did to what you knew as your ‘rotting-book,' for you knew no better—but hear this, Theldrant, and remember it well: serve any book within these walls as you did that one, and I'll not punish you but rather slay you. Slowly and painfully. Several of our tomes tomes bound in human skin are sadly in need of repairs, and your hide will serve as well as any.”
Theldrant gasped, struggling once more to find breath amid icy fear-but the Keeper shook him gently and said, “Breathe, lad, breathe. Be at ease here, for so long as you reverence books, you are most truly and heartily welcome.”
A face appeared over the Keeper's shoulder, and without turning to regard this new arrival the old monk added, “This wisp of beauty is Belabra, who's less kindly to the overbold than she acts and speaks to the rest of us. Thus enlightened, Theldrant, know that she shall be your guide to the baths and the pleasures of the table and a bed to call your own.”
The Keeper seemed to drift aside without taking a step, and Theldrant beheld the monk Belabra in her simple robe. She was barefoot, tall, and slender, and above her somewhat knowing smile, her great dark doe-eyes waited. Theldrant felt as if he could very easily plunge into them and drown in their depths.
He contented himself instead with trying to swallow, trying to breathe, and trying to think of something to say.
In the end, he lost all three battles—but Belabra proved to be strong and fast as well as breath-robbingly beautiful. Her arms were warm, and she smelled good. Theldrant's near-topple turned into something more pleasant, in the brief moments before darkness closed its hand over him, and dragged him down.
Sea-breezes customarily blow onshore at Candlekeep, and in winter that means snowstorms (the great drifts usually form east of the walls, as the winds scour the courtyards bare) and ice; the seaward side of the towers closest to the sea are often thickly coated or even filled with ice, temporarily becoming uninhabitable. For this reason, the seaward towers of Candlekeep are kept open for use in other seasons for discussions, gazing-out-to-sea meditations, and exercise (from acrobatics to war-sparring).
For reasons of the security of the collection, the southernmost towers of Candlekeep (that is, those adjoining the courtyard) are given over to audience-chambers, “the necessariums,” and to reading-rooms.
In the soundproofed audience-chambers, visitors can meet around tables to formally discuss lore with monks and each other.
The necessariums are privies (with compost-chambers below), pantries, kitchens, and storage cellars. At all times, Candlekeep stores enough food to feed its monks for at least three seasons, and has its own bakehouse, brewery, herb-gardens (in shuttered levels high in many towers), salt-slopes (for deriving salt from pumped seawater), winepress, granaries, and wells. There are no lay servants at Candlekeep: the monks themselves see to all their own needs, from shovelling out garderobe-piles and midden-heaps to blowing ornate glass lamp-hoods, and from weaving their own robes to dressing replacement stones for the walls of their towers. As a result, among the Avowed of Candlekeep, just about any worldly skill can be found, at least at the rough-and-ready level—and superb crafters are common. Violent intruders have discovered that alertness and swift battle-skills are also among the accomplishments of the monks of Candlekeep.
Beyond the Emerald Door is an entry hall that looks like just what it is: a fortress room built to aid defenders striking at intruders. Portcullis can be dropped from above and spikes winched up from beneath the floor, and small holes all around the room are firing-ports usable by archers in galleries behind the walls. This hall has four inner doors. One (to the north) leads into a dead-end ‘prison' series of furnished apartments known as ‘The End' that unwelcome but powerful visitors can be lured into; one (to the east) leads into the reading-rooms; one (to the north) admits visitors into a grand audience-chambers (which in turn gives into audience chambers beyond); and the last (to the west) opens into the outdoors again.
Specifically, this West Door opens into terraced rock-gardens of great beauty and tranquility, that ascend from this door in an arc north and west, to encircle the highest central tower of Candlekeep (the tower known as Exaltation, which consists of level upon level of empty rooms where spellcasting and alchemical experimentations can be carried out, and aerial steeds can be stabled and arrive and depart through large wall-ports; connected by flying bridges [some of them covered but most open to the elements] to many other towers of Candlekeep, this tower is regarded by ignorant visitors as the dwelling-place of ‘the most senior ruling monks,' and for reasons of security the Avowed neglect to correct this mistaken impression).
The monks often walk in the gardens, which they refer to as ‘the Grove' because of its many trees. Several natural springs rise in these gardens, and are guided among garden plots to fill pools and then cascade down over rocks. Formerly, the Grove has no wall to separate it from the Court of Air, and its rivulets ended in sinkhole-ponds in the courtyard. Many intrusions into the Grove, and thefts of the herbs planted there, eventually caused the Avowed to wall off easy access to this private paradise.
The living-quarters of the monks are scattered everywhere in Candlekeep, but tend to be to the east and in the upper levels of towers, with more senior monks in the northernmost towers, and the more junior monks in towers to the south of them.
The cell of a monk of Candlekeep tends to be a small, dark stone room lit by a single driftglobe of magical radiance (that goes on or off when touched and magically commanded, and when ‘on' moves about in accordance with the activator's will) with a (typically littered) desk, a great chair, a bed, and crammed-to-sagging bookshelves (full of books made by monks: copies of writings in the monastery collection or diaries of their own writing, on paper made by the monks, of ink made by the monks, and bound between boards by the monks. Most monks seem to prefer ornately-carved wooden furniture of heavy build, made of dark wood (and yes, the monastery has always numbered several competent carpenters and furniture-makers among the Avowed).
The layout of the interlinked towers of Candlekeep can be confusing even to someone who's dwelt there for a season or more. Inside the clusters of towers are so many covered bridges linking them, and rooms and passages that sprawl unbroken from one tower to the next without visible seam, that one seldom knows just which tower one is standing in at a given point. There are small ramps and stairs (of three to seven steps only) in countless places, as well as the great spiral stairs that ascend and descend among several floors, because levels aren't necessarily constant from one tower to the next. Nor is there any formal or logical arrangement of chambers, or any symmetry of overall layout. The best that can be done without extensive maps is to say that the reading-rooms lie in an east-west band immediately north of the audience-chambers, on four levels, and the tome-chambers are to the north of them, sprawling throughout the remainder of the towers on at least eight levels and along numerous passages, with the Inner Rooms NOT clustered in one place, but scattered and hidden, only the flaring of wards warning of one's approach to such a chamber.
In general, the visitor attempting to move from one of the upper doors of the Grove (that is, the doors linking the towers to the gardens, literally ‘above' the level of the West Door of the entry hall) east to the other side of Candlekeep proper (that is, to the other end of the clustered towers) will pass along either the Long High Hall or the not-quite-straight series of chambers to the north of it known as Ardreth's Walk (after a long-dead monk given to sleepwalking). At the eastern end of the Long High Hall is a short, low passage that takes two diagonal turns (as it pierces the now-contiguous walls of two towers in succession) and then emerges into a ‘crossroads' room known as Dry Fountain, a lofty hall with open galleries on two upper levels that connect with each other and the floor level through several railless staircases around an open space that contains, yes, a dry fountain in the shape of a vast bowl with a pillar of reaching hands rising from the center of it, a closed stone book floating unobtainably just above the outstretched fingertips of the uppermost hands.
From the four compass-point doors of Dry Fountain's floor level, direct routes can easily be traced across Candlekeep—and one of them links with the crossroads chamber of Ardreth's Walk, an octagonal dome-ceilinged chamber with galleries on four levels (but no linking stairs) known as the Lushpool Court (or just “Lushpool”) because a pond magically warmed to tropical humidity lies at its center, complete with hanging plants, clinging vines, and fruit trees. Its warmth makes it popular in fall and winter, and a place usually hurried through at other times of the year.
The separations of the towers prevent any chambers from becoming dominant crossroads locales in the loftier levels of Candlekeep, but there is one crossroads-chamber in its cellars: The Howling Well, so named for the feature that makes it easy to locate: a peculiarity of rock resonance and air-currents causes its walls to echo with the sounds of the Endless Chant long after the Chant has passed it by. It can therefore be located by anyone able to hear, merely by moving towards the increasing noise, which is best described as “a vast whispering.”
There are many well-chambers in Candlekeep's cellars, because many springs rise within the volcanic horn it's built on, but The Howling Well is lit by seemingly-permanent, drifting dancing lights radiances, and many passages and two ascending stairs intersect at it (offering more routes than any other spot in the monastery cellars).
“You've known much upset, and the scourge of shame,” Belabra was saying calmly, as Theldrant blinked his way back out of darkness, and slowly became aware that he was being held upright by firm hands under his armpits, and standing in a lofty hall of stone. “Set all that aside now, like a dirty cloak, and be welcome for ten nights after this one.”
“No visitor well enough to walk can remain here in Candlekeep for more than ten days after that of their arrival, unless they plead to join our order, and take the robe of the acolyte. No visitor who departs can return again until an an entire month has passed since their leaving. So come, your time is short—and your fainting proof enough that you need food and drink, and a clearer head.”
Belabra withdrew her steadying arms and plucked at Theldrant's sleeve.
Not moving, he stared around at the bare, forbidding hall. Its walls were studded with many menacing apertures and arrowslits that reminded him of castle firing-ports; he'd expected carved gargoyles and the grandeur, not . . . not . . .
And then Theldrant became aware of a faint, distant plainsong chant, a recitation of unison whispering that grew and grew as its unseen source came closer. Many voices, chanting words in unison, somewhere behind the walls.
“Is that the Endless Chant?” he asked, standing stock-still.
“It is,” Belabra replied, and her voice seemed to hold a smile. Together they stood in silence, and listened to the age-old recitation grow nearer and nearer.
Reading-rooms are all that most seekers ever see of the towers of Candlekeep proper, beyond the entry hall and various garderobes (washrooms) and audience-chambers. To penetrate “deeper within” one must customarily become a monk (surrendering all one's worldly goods to the monastery and renouncing the outside world—which one will see thereafter only rarely, on short missions undertaken for the community).
The only books in reading-rooms are copies of tomes held elsewhere in the collection, and (as rarely as the monks can make possible) books brought out to a specific reading-room by a specific monk (who's charged to watch over the tome until it is returned to its rightful place) from the tome-chambers. Seekers sit at study-tables, each watched over by their own everpresent ‘escort' monk. Seekers deemed interesting or potentially dangerous (especially those known to be keeping secrets from the monks) often ‘draw' additional monks to their reading-room, who stay to watch for trouble, the covert leaving behind of magic or items, and so on. These monks usually bear magical rods or wands or items that allow them to detect magic or see invisible beings, and generally also possess some personal aptitude for magic.
Most study-tables are the slightly-sloping sorts known as ‘reading-tables' (polished wood slabs tilted down towards a seeker, with a ledger-lip to stop volumes sliding into a seeker's lap), and most seekers sit at backless benches to discourage sleeping (and so wasting the time of escort monks).
Quiet is of course paramount in reading-rooms, with converse kept brief and conducted in lowered tones. Should discussions arise, those taking part usually rise of their own accord and go forth into other chambers, so as not to disturb the studies of others.
Among the current escort monks are known to be a tall, pockmarked man with unruly, straw-like hair, who answers to the name of Esmer (“EZZ-mur”); a youth of nondescript looks who seems perpetually-bored and on the verge of falling asleep (though he's anything but), heavy-lidded eyes, and gaunt build named Auloemaun Thrie (“ALL-oh-mon Th-REE”); and a grandly-bearded, flashing-eyed ‘great wizard' of a man called Othraun Kepsur (“OTH-ron KEP-sir”).
Theldrant shrugged, in some confusion. “I know not what to ask for. In truth, I know not where to begin.”
The bored-looking lad bending over him turned aside to yawn, and replied, “You surprise me not. What subject most interests you? What questions d'you most want answered?”
“Well, I—uh . . .”
Theldrant found himself staring in amazement at a large, open book of great size and crumbling age. With no hand holding it and no person near, it was floating purposefully across the hushed chamber, about a handspan above the desks, heading for the rear archway.
The young monk sighed. “Now what? Have you truly never seen a bidden book before?”
Beyond the reading-rooms are the tome-chambers, where the great bulk of Candlekeep's collection resides. These are narrow, crowded rooms (kept dark or dim, with monks relying on driftglobes and conjured dancing lights to see by) lined with bookshelves and equipped with ladders, stools, and drain-holes in the floor to let out water (if a flood should ever occur, or a tower's upper levels get blasted away and rains come, perhaps) and let in some air.
Some tome-chambers are devoted to recent recorded history (both rumors and observations) set down by the monks themselves. Certain viewpoints of monks debating matters with other monks and with visitors are also recorded, and all such writings by monks of Candlekeep are known as ‘scrolls,' regardless of their actual physical form. The vast majority ARE scrolls, stored in bone tubes capped at both ends with wrought, ornamented (often into the heads of monsters or wild creatures such as foxes and owls) metal plugs and sealed with wax.
Collectively the tome-chambers are referred to as ‘the library' of Candlekeep, but it's a mistake to think of the library as being a single room, or even a cluster of directly-connected rooms. On rare occasions visitors to the monastery are permitted to enter a tome-chamber—but non-Avowed are forbidden to write down anything in such a room: note-taking is allowed only in reading-rooms and audience-chambers.
In the hands of an ancient-looking monk across the room, a hoary-looking grimoire opened with an audible sigh, and another blue-white radiance flooded forth. Theldrant winced and turned his head away.
Theldrant had seen the eerie glows arising from the pages of other books—or rather, had seen them playing across the intent, narrow-eyed faces of the monks and lay seekers studying the words on those enspelled pages. He wasn't sure how he'd feel if he ever found himself gazing down at pages crawling with magic, but he was sure of this much: it wasn't something he wanted to think about just now.
Not with words he could barely decipher and runes that seemed to move by themselves on the pages right in front of him, in a narrative that revealed disquieting things about th—
Abruptly a cry arose, off to Theldrant's left. He looked up just as a burst of lightnings stabbed and scorched across the room.
The source of the snarling, arcing bolts was a book, now spinning up into the air of its own volition as the monk who'd been reading it convulsed and groaned in the thrall of those leaping fires. Sparks spat and snapped across desks, seekers sprang backwards with their books, chairs, and all, and—
Suddenly, all around Theldrant, bookshelves were swinging open to reveal their true natures and spew forth hurrying monks, some of whom snatched wands from their belts as they hastened.
Theldrant was on his feet and staring at the rising, whirling book of lightnings when someone shouted, “get down! Duck below the desks, everyone!”
And as if the book heard that warning, it erupted in racing, sizzling bolts of bright blue lightning that forked and stabbed. Theldrant found the floor, or tried to, the air around him tingling in a blinding backwash that flung him somewhere and through something hard and solid that banged open around him.
Darkness and silence fell together, at about the time Theldrant found a very hard stone floor.
The next thing he knew was coldness under his cheek, and a smell of old leather, and a certain coolness of smell that either meant a severe storm was coming or that strong magic was near.
Theldrant opened his eyes and tried to move. The side of his head and his hip ached cursedly, but nothing seemed broken. He sat up, and immediately wished he hadn't.
When the room stopped rocking and swirling, he saw—as much as he could see anything in the everpresent dimness—that there were bookshelves all around him. Bookshelves full of all manner of books, most of them old-looking. He must be in a tome-chamber.
Banging, yes—he must have fallen through one of those secret doors during all the lightnings, and had it close behind him. With a groan, he gathered his feet under him and tried to stand.
The rising was easy enough, but his hip burned like fire and he couldn't help but stagger and throw out a hand for balance. His fingertips brushed several books, and cold fires of magic erupted along their spines.
Something moved on the spine of a book close by his head. Something that glistened.
Theldrant stared at—a pair of calm brown eyes that stared right back at him. He watched them blink. Yes, two eyes had opened in the spine of a spellbook.
“Ah, there you are. You do have a knack for plunging into imprudence, young Ornan. Come away out of there, now—you're only a pace or two from one of the Inner Rooms, and blundering into its wards would be most unpleasant.” Theldrant knew that voice: Othraun the wizard-monk, who'd been presiding over the reading-room.
“Uh, ah, of course. Come away where, exactly? But first, please tell me: unpleasant how? ”
“Excruciatingly painful, actually. It feels as if your guts are going to tear their various ways up and out through your body. Your limbs spasm—everything spasms—you spew uncontrollably, and so forth. It's all because the wards act on some of your innards before the rest. I've found ‘most unpleasant' covers it well.”
“And how do you know how it feels?”
“By being foolish enough to try it, of course. How do you think I learned how to throw my gaze through certain books—such as this one?”
The most valuable tomes of Candlekeep's library (including all texts containing actual spells) are kept in what is known as “the Inner Rooms” (in old texts, “the Innermost Rooms”), admittance to which is forbidden to all save those who've dwelt a decade or more at Candlekeep as a monk, and whose thoughts have been magically probed often. The great, many-layered wardspells that permeate Candlekeep (and among other things prevent anything but wax and wicks from burning, and destroy insects and molds) prohibit the bodies of living creatures from entering the Inner Rooms unless they possess a pass-token (square tablets of enspelled stone bearing a certain rune; one such is depicted on page 32 of Volo's Guide to the Sword Coast ) or have been personally spell-attuned to the wards (the rare beings who have are the Keeper, the First Reader, and all Great Readers, plus by default [thanks to the nature of the wardspells] the Chosen of Mystra), or who are taken through in direct physical contact with someone who's attuned to the wards (who must be willing and conscious during entry).
Traps are said to abound in the Inner Rooms, and reports of their configurations and appearances vary wildly. It is certain that the popular conception of a single cluster of guarded central chambers is wrong: so-called ‘Inner Rooms' are scattered widely throughout the towers of Candlekeep.
The Avowed of Candlekeep (as the monks formally refer to themselves; in daily speech, they're more likely to say “we scribes” or just “we”) are led by the Keeper of the Tomes, who sets rules and policy for Candlekeep by decree. Second in authority after the Keeper is the First Reader (traditionally the most learned sage of the Avowed, and often the most charismatic, eloquent, and forceful personage to be found within the walls; as a result, down the years, the Keeper and First Reader have often been at odds). The Keeper's word is law, but the Avowed can vote to ‘cast down' (reduce to the ranks of the Seekers) or ‘cast out' (expelled from the monastery). It is very rare for any monk of the rank of Scribe or above to be killed in punishment, but blindings and de-handings have been popular sentences in the past.
Authority then descends to the Great Readers (learned monks who earn their places by merit; their numbers can vary from none to a meximum of eight), and then to ‘the Offices:' the Chanter, the Guide, and the Gatewarden (listed here in order of rank).
The Chanter leads the ongoing marching chant of the remaining prophecies of Alaundo (as each prophecy is decreed by the Keeper to have been fulfilled, it is removed from the chant) that wends its way endlessly through Candlekeep. All of the Avowed who can stand and speak must join this procession for at least the recitation of nine prophecies per day, but most of the marchers are Seekers or Scribes, with either the Chanter or one of his three understudies (the Voice of the North, the Voice of the East, and the Voice of the South) at its head. The route of the Endless Chant is set by this leader, but in practise is seldom modified from a long circuit that climbs stairs near the Emerald Door so that it can be heard echoing in the entry hall, winds east among the middle levels of the towers, drops down to granary-cellars to turn north and then back west, climbs steadily as it goes west, and then descends again as it turns south to complete the circuit.
The Guide has absolute control over all tutoring (largely by other monks of varying ranks) of the acolytes (new seekers or arrivals in the monastery who desire to join the Avowed but who have not yet become ‘Seekers' or full brothers/sisters among the Avowed), and oversees the teaching of members of the Avowed.
The Gatewarden orders and oversees the security of Candlekeep, the escorting (and watching over) of visitors, all dealings with visiting clergy (who, even if of Oghma, are seen as honoured guests lacking authority, rather than members of the Avowed). The security staff commanded by the Gatewarden consist of five underofficers. These include four Watchers who wander as they will, exempt from all other duties, so they can keep watch over the land and sea around the monastery, typically from lookouts high in the towers, and patrol Candlekeep itself, commandeering Scribes as they see fit to stalk after certain visitors or use spells to spy on approaching supplicants and other creatures nearby. The fifth underofficer is the Keeper of the Portal, who oversees the gate guard and the monks detailed to watch over Candlekeep's connections to the Underdark and other (magically hidden) wall-gates and exterior tunnel-doors (there are at least three in the north-facing cliffs of the volcanic crag crowned by the monastery, and at least one to the south, somewhere under the stables). In addition to the monks they call upon in times of need, all five of these underofficers command a dozen assistants each (all armed monks experienced in battle).
Below the Offices are the Master Readers, sometimes called ‘Masters of Realmslore' by the Heralds and by sages elsewhere in the Realms. They are the senior monks, and the lowest rank among the Avowed who have a vote in filling vacancies among the ranks above them.
Below the Master Readers are the great bulk of monks: the Scribes, and below them the Seekers, the lowest rank in the Avowed (‘acolytes,' the novices in training, are not considered full members of the Avowed; to be accepted as a Seeker requires satisfying any five monks AND at least one monk actively working as a tutor under the Guide, or the Guide himself).
Master Readers obey higher-ranked monks, supervise those of lesser rank, and are the primary interpreters of written works owned by Candlekeep. It is they who debate truths, send others (or go forth themselves) to do practical research where tomes fail, or to acquire new tomes to make up such gaps and shortfalls, do much magical experimentation, and attempt to prove the veracity and improve the quality of the written lore accumulated at Candlekeep. Most of them specialize in interpreting arcane phrases and in mastering a variety of written and spoken languages. Many can identify the age or origin of a work by hearing a snatch of its prose read aloud or by a glance at its written text.
Scribes do a share of the work necessary for the maintenance of the community, obey all Avowed of higher rank, and devote themselves otherwise to learning and to making written copies of works owned by Candlekeep (and compiling new books, by drawing on the lore contained in other works and rephrasing it, for sale by Candlekeep).
Seekers fetch and carry for all monks of higher rank, do much of the daily gruntwork of keeping the monastic community running, and in the time left to them devote themselves to research, trying to better themselves so they'll be recommended by Master Readers for elevation.
The Keeper of the Tomes is the only person allowed to wear robes of pure white within the walls of Candlekeep (aside from this restriction, visitors can wear anything except weapons or armor). All monks of high offices (from the First Reader down the Gatewarden) wear robes of various hues (they can change the colors of their garments as desired), but these robes must be adorned with a strict rank code of various combinations of white stripes and adornments stitched in gold. The various underofficers all wear brown homespun, the Readers wear maroon cassocks, and the Scribes wear cassocks of any hue trimmed with crimson (across the shoulders and in a vertical bar down the front). Seekers wear mauve robes, and acolytes wear robes of pure black. All Avowed wear black weathercloaks on occasion, or homepsun of various hues as work clothes.
The Avowed are almost exclusively human, though there's no bar to other races, and are overwhelmingly (over eight in every ten) male, though females aren't forbidden. It should be noted that one of the reasons so few female monks are seen by visitors is that some female Avowed prefer to wear magical male guises to avoid the attentions of visitors.
It should be noted that there's no bar to marriage, relationships, and sex among the Avowed, regardless of age, rank, race, or gender. Avowed often bathe together, and nudity or partial nudity is not seen as a cause for embarrassment or censure among them. However, Candlekeep is no cauldron of lust, either: most of its Avowed are rather disinterested in the physical side of existence, and are most ecstatic when uncovering long-hidden lore, finding books unexpectedly, proving hunches and conclusions as fact, and laying bare deliberately-concealed secrets.
The monks of Candlekeep don't stink or resemble walking flea-heaps. They bathe daily (some of them twice or thrice daily), keep hair and nails trimmed, and they dine and drink heartily, well, and often. Many of the Avowed are skilled at treating the injured and sick, knowing much herb-lore and recognizing a wide variety of diseases. Recognizing poisons and their effects, and applying remedies and antidotes in the briefest time possible, is a speciality of at least a dozen senior monks of Candlekeep—and they've saved the lives of scores of poisoned persons who've had wealth enough to be teleported to the monastery gates. (No person desiring or obviously needing entry into the infirmary will be forced to provide an entrance-gift, or subject to parley at all—unless they recover and then want to enter Candlekeep proper.)
Daily rituals of the Avowed include private personal prayers to at least one deity important to the individual monk (most Avowed pray to three or four), a time for meditation alone, some debate or discussion with fellow monks, counsel with an Avowed of superior rank who's assigned as ‘mentor' (mentors watch their charges for signs of emotional upset, irrational behaviour, magical influences, illness, and boredom; the daily meetings are usually of the very brief “All okay?” variety, but may become long-term therapy if the need arises), and participation in the Endless Chant (which many monks find acts as an ideal ‘mindless mind-settler').
The chief source of income for the monks of Candlekeep is the sale of writings made by its monks (compilations and reinterpretations of lore from the monastery library) and copies (made by the monks) of notable works, including short ‘travelling spellbooks' consisting of a handful of minor arcane magics, and a generous number of blank pages.
In some cases, patrons commission the copying in its entirety of a particular work owned by Candlekeep (and pay handsomely). The most common paying work performed by the Avowed is the copying out of specific sentences or passages of non-magical lore (if less than a page, a minimum fee of 100 gold pieces is charged). Wizards or others desiring to glean magical lore from the monastery must pay a stiff fee for entry or to sponsor a researcher acting for them, but this fee is discounted greatly if paid in the form of spellbooks or spell scrolls.
Typical of the compilations done by the Avowed in recent years are the following volumes (at least a score of each were offered for sale in Baldur's Gate and in Waterdeep during the last decade):
A Bestiary of Northwestern Faerûn 50 gp
A Codex of Important Mages, Their Fates and Achievements 100 gp
Common Prayers, Symbols, and Sayings of Many Faiths 50 gp
Sword Coast Herbs and Their Uses 50 gp
Treasure Tales of the Sword Coast 50 gp
Written Scripts and Important Texts 100 gp
All of these tomes give as author simply “The Avowed of Candlekeep,” and command far higher resale prices than they were originally sold for (as they're considered superbly useful collections of lore). They are handsomely bound in green-dyed calfskin, stamped in gilt with the castle-and-flames badge of Candlekeep.
Candlekeep also buys books, and even sponsors adventuring-groups and lore-seekers to undertake expeditions across Faerûn to procure particular tomes for the monastery collection. Candlekeep does not condone book theft, but tends to turn a blind eye to its likelihood in such cases.
As well as holding countless lore-secrets, Candlekeep has scores of secrets of its own, from the whereabouts of Avowed who vanished within its walls down the years to who keeps moving certain doorstops from their agreed-upon places.
Many colourful tales recount this or that oddity of Candlekeep, from its ghosts (most of them being harmless apparitions of monks who stride around by night seeking to retrieve favourite books that someone has moved or are busily reading) to its unexpected magics. These latter include portals that lead to Waterdeep and elsewhere; certain books kept in the inner chambers that are themselves portals (operating only when opened and held by someone who reads aloud just the right words, in the right sequence); and particular tomes whose precise locations can be traced as they are moved about Candlekeep, thanks to spells added to the wards.
“Lurking spirits” is the usual casual monks' explanation for disembodied voices that intone a few words when a book is opened, or to someone sitting alone studying in a particular room at a certain time—or the habits of some books of moving about from place to place by themselves.
Many books in the Candlekeep collection are known to have magical properties, notably the power to ‘project' three-dimensional floating images (some of which speak and emit sounds, and others of which are frustrating silent) or to reveal some writings to some readers, and others to other readers (depending on the nature of the beings perusing them, or what passwords are uttered).
As for the dragon guardians who appear only to destroy buildings erected too close to the walls of Candlekeep (or to battle dragons attacking the monastery, or to carry the bodies of dead Keepers of the Tomes out to sea and to an unknown resting-place), these remain mysteries not spoken of by the Avowed. If pressed, some will go so far as to murmur, “There are worse guardians. Much worse.”
Candlekeep is held in reverence throughout much of Faerûn, and even those who lust after its lore (such as ambitious Red Wizards of Thay and Zhentarim) fear to openly storm it—particularly after both various Chosen of Mystra and the being known as Larloch have down the years made public their intent to utterly destroy anyone who steals from or harms the Avowed and the collection they guard.
Candlekeep's carefully-maintained neutrality, and primary purpose of collecting and preserving lore rather than sitting in judgment on anyone outside its walls, holds it apart from much strife and debate—and word has spread across Faerûn that there is but one rule at Candlekeep (or rather, “The Rule of Candlekeep”): “Those who destroy knowledge, with ink, fire, or sword, are themselves destroyed.”
In everyday terms, that means the monks will slay and burn the body of anyone who willfully damages the writings in any book of their collection, or who attempts arson or damaging magic in or into the towers of Candlekeep proper. (This would include knowingly introducing bookworms or other book-devouring life into the monastery.)
The Avowed value their own copies and compiled works slightly less highly, preferring at least a decade of magically-enforced servitude (for Candlekeep but not necessarily at Candlekeep) be visited upon anyone damaging or destroying a Candlekeep-created book.
Those who deface a book and succeed in obliberating part of its writings are sometimes blinded or have one or both hands severed, and cast out to beg or die. Intent matters in sentencing (accidentally spilling ink over a tome merits far lesser punishment).
Defacement that consists of augmentations (for example, scribbling rude comments or refutations on a book's pages) will often earn temporary magical blinding (and perhaps feeblemindedness ) for a year or two, or being forced into servitude (with water breathing or similar magics) as a shellfish-gatherer for the monastery, set to work underwater along the seashore. If the augmentations are helpful elaborations or corrections, the punishment will be far less severe (often exile from Candlekeep forever, and one-time forfeiture of all goods to the monastery).
Book thieves typically suffer exile, blinding in one eye, loss of all worldly goods, and enforced transportation far across Faerûn from Candlekeep—or a deal: bring back this particular book to us within two years, and you'll escape all punishment. Fail to do so, and we'll hunt you down. If a book is damaged or destroyed as a result of its theft, of course, the usual punishments for such disasters apply.
Mere unauthorized entry into Candlekeep (sneaking in), if it results in no damage to Avowed or books, is usually punished by expulsion plus a beating (for adults) and giving the intruder ‘a good scare' (usually by means of spells to invade the dreams of the guilty afterwards, as well as frightening them on the spot).
Truly, lore and writings are valued above life in the citadel of learning that is Candlekeep.
In some cases, members of the Avowed will receive lesser sentences for crimes than outsiders do, but there is also at least one crime specific to the monks of Candlekeep.
No study of magic may be made (by any monk, of any rank below Keeper of the Tomes) unsupervised at Candlekeep (in other words, without the full knowledge and permission of specified superiors). The penalty is expulsion and feeblemindedness .
Moreover, the use by any Avowed of magic for personal gain or inquiry, as opposed to the service or defense of Candlekeep, is grounds for instant ‘casting out' from the monastery, forever.
Monks who resist the discipline of their fellow monks, or attack or steal from their fellows, risk being feebleminded or magically driven into dunderheaded servitude of enforced docility for months or even years.
There's also one other little mystery of Candlekeep. From time to time, random monks will ‘go staring' and prophecy in a voice not their own. Although such utterances are typically cryptic, and are never added to the Endless Chant, most Avowed believe that such occurrences are the result of ‘the spirit of Alaundo rising within' affected monks, and refer to it in awe as: “Alaundo Speaks!”