Magnum Opus' Muse Arcane

Magnum Opus Herself

Thoth's Great Lie-Brary

Get A Musee Map Here!

The Librarian carefully prised the thick traveller's diary from the laden shelves, easing it from between countless others like it. After a dozen hours of searching, he'd finally discovered the book he'd been sent to locate. He was beginning to believe the sodding thing didn't want to be found, but finally, there it was. Judging by the dust, he was the first to tread this aisle of the Library for years. Wrinkling his elegant nose as he brushed a cobweb from the worn cover, he opened the book and squinted: "The Journal of Ariaq Carstein". Slowly, the copperplate handwriting became clearer and he began to read..

Two days out of Automata, heading Spikeward

The Great Spire looms ever taller in front of the caravan. Sigil, perched like a nest on top of the Spire, seems even smaller than before. Storm clouds swirl around the monstrous pinnacle, gather like a flock of bedraggled sheep at the base, and then climb upwards towards the Cage.

I can't see the burg of Automata behind me any more. Were it not for the Spire, I'd say I was lost. The road petered out long ago; according to my map only uncharted terrain lies between here and Thoth's Estate. Not much of a map, really.

I find myself wondering what darks are locked away inside the most esteemed library in the Planes. I've not met anyone who's actually been there, but the chant goes that it's a magnificent place of learning. They say Thoth's Library holds all the books that have ever been written, or ever will be. Doesn't sound likely to me - in my experience, 'they' say many things which aren't true.

Still, it'll be a better place than most to find an Axiom. If my theory's correct, proof'll surely be there somewhere. The thought of being so close to such a breakthrough fills my dreams nightly. I simply don't understand why the Fraternity didn't suggest I go to the Library sooner

Nine days out of Automata, heading Spikeward

The Plains of Ma'at are as endless as they are flat, alternating between oases of verdant olive trees, groves of palms, and humid marshes where the fertile River Ma'at bubbles up through the ground and creates fields of luscious greenery. Spikeward lie great mud flats, and further on still I can see the sparkling snake of the river.

I've travelled for days, and each night I can see the lights of a great city on the horizon. It never seems to move closer. The days are hot, the skies are glaringly bright and cloudless. There's been no rain, nor any sign of it. I tire of these lands, beautiful though they might be; I wish I'd spent longer in the Cage looking for a portal straight to the Library. I might've even completed my research by now

Eleven days out of Automata, heading Spikeward

Civilisation at last! This morning I awoke at the edge of the flood plain. Nearby was a great building of pure white marble with a dome reaching far into the sky. There was a palpable aura there, like something vastly powerful was nearby. Despite myself I felt a terrible awe well up inside of me. I guess that's Thoth's way of saying hello.

"Magnificent, isn't it!" The voice echoed across the garden of life. "Welcome to Thoth's Estate". I turned and saw a woman wearing the understated (some would say boring) grey robes of a scholar. "Permit me to introduce myself," she said. "I'm Livra, Librarian of Thoth. I know you need my guidance."

"Thanks, cutter" I answered, not knowing what Thoth's Priestesses liked to be called. "You've got my gratitude."

"I know," she said. The tone in her hollow voice wasn't one of arrogance; it seemed more as if she truly did know what I was thinking. I pushed that troubling thought from my mind, wondering just where it appeared from.

The Palace of Thoth

While the Palace of Thoth looked to be very close, it was still several leagues away. It was simply so vast that I assumed it was nearby: the pinnacle of the dome towered perhaps a mile into the sky! Beyond the Palace, and across the River Ma'at lay the Great Library I sought; in fact, I could see the pinnacle of the pyramid over the palm trees. Surrounding, and dwarfed by the Library, were the spires and towers of Thebestys: the biggest burg in Thoth's Realm. If His Library's half as big as His Palace (a fact which I don't doubt for a second), then I've still got still some way to walk!

The grounds of the palace are green swampy lands flourishing with life, untouched by the locust storms which frequently trouble these parts. In the wetlands there are countless storks, herons, ibis, spoon bills and many more outlandish wading birds. Livra led me to a path of white stepping stones which crossed the swamp. I saw grinning crocodiles lurking under the surface, and felt their toothy thoughts willing me to slip from the stones.

"Don't worry," came Livra's not-so reassuring voice, "You're safe, for now."

Whatever I said to the woman, she answered "I know". Thing is, her attitude suggested she actually did. I asked her what she meant, and she told me she heard Thoth's voice at all times in her brain-box, teaching her all things. I'd say it'd drive a lesser woman mad.

The Bridge Which Spans Ma'at

This immense bridge is still under construction, and I'd guess it probably always will be. Chant is it's been here as long as Thoth, but that the River Ma'at is always becoming wider. The concept of ma'at is an important one in Thoth-worship, but its meaning is hard to translate. It's basically a state of mind where honour, truth and integrity become all that a person feels. In other words: some leatherheaded concept invented by Thoth to keep his petitioners on the straight-and-narrow. As a petitioner achieves ma'at the river widens slightly, and the bridge doesn't quite reach. Still, the gap in the middle's not too big to jump for most bashers.

Every brick pulses with its own inner life. The bridge's stones are ever-shifting in colour; from grey to brown to black to white. The bridge looks as if it's miles long from the bank, yet it took me only a few minutes to cross it.

Ibis-headed proxies build stones into the fabric of the Bridge Which Spans Ma'at (the Bridge of Fabrication, I call it). They claim that inspiration, wisdom and wonder often strikes those who cross the bridge with an open mind, and that past facts forgotten are remembered. Of course, I felt nothing of the sort; although as I trod the cobbles, the thought that I was walking the wrong way crossed my mind more than once. I looked behind me, checked the Palace of Thoth was indeed receding into the distance, and continued on towards Thebestys, bemused by my flights of whimsy.

Thebestys

Once I'd crossed the river I was in Thebestys itself. While the burg was grand in its own way, it couldn't hold a candle to the Library. The pyramid housing the Library towers over Thebestys like a volcano of knowledge about to erupt. It's built of a bluish stone, which catches the light and scatters it about the town. When I approached the ziggurat, I could see it wasn't made of blocks, but seemed to be carved from one solid chunk of this magical material.

As I got closer still, I recognised some of the symbols etched into the steps of the pyramid: there was just about every letter from every language I've ever seen, and I imagine the rest were from a few thousand other languages which I've never even heard of. Folk I asked claimed that every symbol, image or glyph ever written was carved on the surface of the Library somewhere. Now that I've actually seen it myself, I don't find it so hard to believe.

The entire burg is devoted to serving the Great Library. Alongside the river are paper mills, churning out wagon loads of parchment made from the reeds which grow all around the town. Ink brewers also work here, and the smell of goose, swan and ostrich farms where quills were harvested for the scribes of the Library still hangs heavy in my nostrils. There are bookbinders and leather workers by the score, all sending their goods into the structure by cart and camel. I didn't see one single finished book outside the place though, nor a scribe of any sort.

Most of the locals are tattooed on their faces, or are copiously pierced in the nose, ears, fingers and jaw. I gather the ones with their hands pierced are Petitioners of Thoth; it seems like a rather painful way to show devotion to me.

The Great Library

While the great blue doors to the place were closed when I approached them, a small door at the base of the forty-foot high portals opened up when I knocked. The guards inside let me in after they ascertained I could read and write (oh yes, they actually checked), and while I wasn't carrying any weapons, they didn't stop and search me. Maybe they already knew I wasn't armed.

I'd even brought a purse of gold coins with me to pay my way into the Library. Curiously, not once did either of the guards mention an entry fee to me. I assumed it'd be collected when I left, and hid the pouch back in my rucksack. It might not be the Cage, but you can't be too careful.

The vault I entered took my breath away. It was larger than the entire Civic Festhall, with walls as far as I could see covered in books. The place was swarming with scholars, a fair number of them wearing the muted greys of Librarians. I stopped one to ask if there were any rooms other than this one. The cutter laughed rather ominously and said this was the Index Chamber.

Leading off from this mausoleum of information were many corridors, lined with doors. These, I was surprised to find, were the quarters for scholars and researchers. Up the staircases were - as well as rooms housing more recent index items - scriptoriums and lecture theatres.

After I'd been assigned a study cell (a Librarian actually came to me and showed me where to find it), I decided to explore for a little. The inside of the structure must be far larger than the outside, for I wandered the corridors of the upper levels for hours and never passed along the same one twice. But strangest of all, whenever I turned back and looked for my cell, it was never more than a few moments walk away.

The Deep Vaults

Once I'd settled into my cell and unpacked my meagre belongings into the chest at the foot of my bed, I thought I'd wander down one into what the Librarians called the "Deep Vaults". Though the subject areas were clearly marked with every language I could care to translate, I still got the feeling that it was going to be hard to find exactly what I wanted.

As I descended further below the ground, the air became drier and mustier. Such an atmosphere would be necessary to preserve the integrity of the ancient texts here, I imagine. The only sound I could hear for a long time was the scraping of my own feet on the steps. Then I reached the first vault. It was one containing books on psionic lore: the subject I'd been studying all my life.

While I'm used to the libraries of the Cage having maybe one or two tomes on such subjects (and then only if I spend hours searching), I was astounded to find a suite of rooms twice the size of any library I've ever been into before - all housing books on this one topic. There were so many volumes that I didn't know where to start. In fact, I began to feel faint at the prospect of all that knowledge crying out to be studied. Apparently that's a common feeling that new arrivals to the Library feel.

After much reading, I realised I was hungry. With few windows to let in the light of day, and only the illumination of candles to read by, it proved easy to lose track of time. When I finally counted the stubs of the candles I'd burned and found I'd spent two whole days reading without a break, I was horrified. My eyes were sore to the point of agony with squinting, and my back was breaking with stiffness, but somehow I managed to return to my cell and find some food. From just down the corridor came the most delicious smell of fresh bread and soup, so I followed my stomach's growls. A portable meal-wagon was set up in a lecture theatre, and several dozen scholars were supping and discussing important matters in the low voices academicians always assume. To my surprise, the Librarian doling out soup wasn't asking for any money in return. Jolly decent of him, I thought.

Later, from the relative comfort of my sleeping palette I reviewed what I'd read. In two days I'd learned more than in the entire year before! My head buzzed with excitement as I tried to test some of the newly-acquired theories out. Many hours of thought later, when my brain finally stopped racing and began to hurt, I decided to get some sleep.

Sleep didn't come. There was too much to learn to allow sleep. So I found a candle and went back to the Vault of Psionics, my migraine forgotten. Many of the scholars I'd left were still there, reading and annotating. I returned to my manuscripts, rapt in the awe of it all.

One Week inside the Great Library

Aside from scholars like myself and Thoth's clergy, I've learned there are many creatures which live in the Library, which may help or hinder the researchers. As befits Thoth's moral and ethical neutrality, there seems to be no particular bias to the overall attitude of the creatures.

Alongside scholars of the mortal races, I hear there's an arcanaloth or two, a handful of amnizu baatezu, around a dozen rilmani and a warden archon. I also spied a shining silvery sphere which I understand to be a translator.

However, most non-mortal creatures take the form of books. My current hypothesis is that these are all that remains of dead petitioners of Thoth. When they finally lose their physical forms to the River, their experiences and memories are inscribed into tomes and filed away in the Library alongside the more mundane books.

These book spirits may act for good or ill, but all are highly intelligent and have their own agendas. Chant is that it may seem like one is leading a researcher astray, when in fact, it's trying to get him to look at a problem with a fresh perspective. This can't be achieved simply by saying: 'try another angle', but can be rapidly initiated by giving advice which soon proves to be false, but on further thought yields new answers.

The Librarian I consulted would say little about them save their name. She called them Ma'au-amy-sha'yt, which means 'the chroniclers who dwell in scrolls' in the ancient language of the Egyptians. Then she told me to stop rattling my bone-box, as this was a place of silence. Suitably chastised, I returned to my studies.

Some speculate that the only purpose in existence of the ma'au-amy-sha'yt is to learn, but that they themselves are confined to the Library. It's a cert that they've read all the works concerning their own special subject, so the Library holds no interest for them except for the thoughts and dreams of scholars who're attracted there by the promise of knowledge. The book spirits intrigue me greatly; I shall endeavour to learn more of them.

Musings on the Ma'au-amy-sha'yt

A typical ma'au-amy-sha'yt is a volume two feet by one foot, and six inches thick. They're able to levitate themselves at will, and they communicate by writing their thoughts in archaic, copperplate handwriting. They possess an eloquent, long-winded manner, and never abbreviate words. Their pages are blank save for their thoughts, which fade into the parchment as new ones replace them.

Many of the book spirits are extremely ancient (many hundreds of years old) and have all but forgotten what being mortal means. Their long lifespans give them no cause to be hasty. I'm told ma'au-amy-sha'yt are quite happy to spend many years pondering a question in a dormant state on a shelf somewhere, only to grow annoyed at being disturbed by a browser many months later.

Book spirits frequently refer to their 'children'; this confused me until I realised that by this they meant the non-sentient books of the Library. Their names are related to the subjects they devoted their mortal lives to furthering, for example: 'A Treatise on the Nature of Death in the Cycle of Life', or 'A Study of the Psionic Faculties of Human and Demi-human Races'. While they'll sometimes share their thoughts with a deserving reader, many demand payment in new knowledge (a difficult thing to find), a service undertaken, or simply ask to be informed in detail of the results of any research.

As I mentioned earlier, they often give incorrect advice in order to stimulate thought in the questioner. This is very frustrating to scholars in a hurry for answers, but as the book spirits say: "Useful knowledge never comes to he who spends so much time in a hurry that he overlooks things which are only apparent to those who spend more time thinking". Now this isn't exactly catchy, but then I don't think book spirits are ones for cute phrases.

I've not been able to find out much about their creation, but I gather they become wiser and more intelligent (acquiring new powers and mystical abilities related to their areas of study) with the passing years. However, as they never die of age, the most ancient ma'au-amy-sha'yt can be very powerful indeed.

I've also heard tales of the Three Tomes of Thoth; artifacts of legendary proportions right here in the Library. They contain all knowledge from the past, present and future. If they do exist I can only surmise they must be very large tomes indeed! There's a very dark whisper about that these are ma'au-amy-sha'yt of the Powers themselves; long ago there were three Powers of knowledge who Thoth replaced or trapped in the Library!

Twenty-five Days in the Great Library

Today I met Brakon, a githzerai psychic of the Athar. He caught a look at the tomes I was studying and took me aside for a chat. It seemed to me that the barmy fellow was trying to persuade me to leave. He said: "Listen kid, there's a lot you've got to know about this place before you decide to stay. Now I know more than I ever thought possible about the philosophies and psionics of the Powers, but you know, knowledge is a terrible disease. If you try to satisfy your craving for it, it only gets worse and worse.

"Find the bare minimum you need and get out before the book spirits get to you. And don't go reading any of them until you know a lot more about their subject; there's nothing they hate more than a novice who thinks he's a master. Be careful: stay too long and you'll become trapped like the rest of us. Whatever you do, don't let the priests see you're about to try and leave. They might try to lose you in the labyrinths down below."

I attempted to explain myself and ask exactly what he meant, but he apparently didn't hear me (or didn't want to) because he continued:

"If you'll excuse me, I'm late for a debate with my fellow scholars. A Scion of Ilsensine has arrived down in the vaults. I can't miss this opportunity to question it. Oh, and can you deliver this message to Factol Gorstalia in Sigil for me?"

I didn't have the heart to tell him that Factol Gorstalia had died twenty-seven years ago. The strange conversation left me, if anything, more eager than ever to continue my research here

The Librarian frowned, licking a dry finger and leafing through years of research. He stopped at the last page of the diary...

Sixteen Years inside the Great Library

The reputation of the knowledge of the Great Library often proves an irresistible lure to scholars. I believe that the pyramid is simply a trap laid by Thoth to capture all those who threaten his 'divine' monopoly on information. The priests of Thoth naturally disagree, saying that this is actually the 'Paradise' Thoth promises all his faithful.

In fact, once they have entered the Library, there is no reason for scholars to leave at all. The many rooming houses and eateries at all levels of the pyramid provide food, lodgings and drink free of charge - the Planar Temple of Thoth subsidises the whole place. The corridors of the Library contain laboratories, lecture halls and scriptoriums, museums and galleries of all varieties.

Why does the Temple do this? Is it a truly beneficent organisation dedicated to furthering the learning of scholars to take Thoth's knowledge to the Multiverse? Why no! I believe the whole thing is a sham! Scholars are provided with everything so they don't even consider leaving. Fascinating seminars and audiences are organised in the many function rooms where obscure points of lore and knowledge and discussed. There are more intelligent beings are here than anywhere else in the Outlands, and Thoth wants to keep it that way.

Why is this? Does He gain his power from the presence of so many great minds? Does He learn new darks from their discoveries? Is He jealously protecting what he knows from the Multiverse while trying to learn even more? Is Thoth even able to learn if He truly knows all - maybe He is not as omniscient as his priests claim? Or is He really trying to teach? Who can say, but I know what I think...

Did I say no need for scholars to leave? Well maybe that is true, but there is also no way for them to leave. I tried many times myself, over the years, before I was as wise as I am now. Each time the Librarians caught me and politely escorted me back to my study cell. I can find no psionic power which allows me to escape, and I have never heard of any Portal leading from here, though I now know the patterns of hundreds in Sigil. Magic cannot breach the walls of the Temple either. Thoth has ensured his prizes will remain His and His alone.

Eventually, I stopped trying to escape. My longing for fresh air and reality gradually faded away, until all that was left was the desire to know more. The years of living in gloomy reading chambers have taken their toll. My health has deteriorated, my eyes strained and tired, and my muscles wizened. After ten years, I would not have been able to return to a normal existence, even if I had wanted to. Now, I am dying. While I worried of my health, a more serious threat existed: I learned so much that my brain could not store it all. I have begun to forget memories of my youth and my friends in the Cage.

My researches have taught me more than I ever dreamed was possible. I can merely look into the eyes of a berk and know his deepest secrets. I glimpse worlds in other realities in my dreams, and I know they exist. I know wizards who can use magic more powerful than any I have ever seen before, without the need of words or gestures. My studies have revealed to me unimaginable darks, yet I cannot leave. To leave now would render everything I've ever done futile, for I know there is so much more to learn. The ultimate answer to my Axiom still evades me, though I am so close to the answer I can almost touch it. Where else can I learn it but here?

Only the intelligent need fear the draw of the Library, and only the deserving are allowed inside. Thoth guards His wisdom from the ignorant, perhaps fearing it will be put to ill use, or maybe out of a sense of jealousy. Only those who have researched a great deal in lesser libraries are allowed to enter Thoth's Hallowed Halls, and the priests of Thoth make sure that they never see the light of day again.

I write this knowing my days will end here in the Library, and that none will read this work who have not already entered the place. My only hope is that one young blood will find this before he's already trapped here, somehow manage to escape the notice of the priests, and by some miracle escape with this book. Maybe then he can prevent other being trapped here for eternity like we all have been.

And as for me? I hope to become a Ma'au-amy-sha'yt, as we all do. I have written all my knowledge down in this book. Maybe it will continue my memory enough to pass beyond my death, so I may continue my studies here for eternity. To share thoughts with the greatest minds of the Multiverse. To dwell forever in a tiny Cage of my own making; a prison which is my Paradise, Purgatory and Damnation at once.

The Librarian closed the book with a wry smile. Taking up a quill and sheet of parchment, he began to write:

"Tome Guardian Livra, I have located Ariaq Carstein as you requested. I will deliver her to the Vault of Dangerous Texts. I shall have the Censors await your further orders as to her fate."

An interesting story, I'm sure you'll agree. But is it true? Well, I've never been to the Library. And I've never met anyone else who has. But I have met several cutters who were going, and I tell you straight, I never saw them again. Maybe they encountered similar fates?

Alas, I cannot prove a word.

Magnum Opus

Thanks to:

Gianni Vacca, whose knowledge of Ancient Egyptian was the source of the Ma'au-amy-sha'yt's name, Randir, Mike Jones, Jamie Walker and Zak Arntson who proffred it, Colin McComb who checked it out against OHG while the latter was being written, and sent me motivating speeches every other week (or so it seemed).

 

 Consult the Mimir Again