Library of Nomikos
The Library of Nomikos on the Isle of Ormian is the largest library complex in the world of Kulthea, now called the Library of Biblia on the Isle of Ornath. It was founded in 2530 Second Era (~ 10,000 years ago) by Andraax, the founder of the Loremasters who was secretly one of the Lords of Essaence. Only the Loremaster library at Karilon surpassed that of Nomikos in terms of security and the depth of its knowledge. Staffed with powerful mages and infamous Changramai warrior monks, the Great Library is sovereign and had never once been conquered in its history, including the Wars of Dominion.
There had been no established background or details for Biblia in modern Elanthian history for decades, which is changing with the Rings of Lumnis paid event with later expansions to the Isle of Ornath. Familiarity with the word stemmed from the town guard Quin Telaren, who claims to not be a scholar of Biblia when asked strange questions, and says the following: "Surely you've heard of the library of Biblia! Why, it's the only worthwhile reason for wanting to visit the Isle of Ornath that I can think of." There is a library seal on the manuscript in the crypt of the Graveyard which would have said Nomikos originally.
The Library is actually a vast complex of buildings covering half a square mile, accessible only by a winding road up a sheer cliff face from the Port of Ormian. ("Nomikos" itself is just the Loari word for "Library.") It is high on the northern plateau of the island, which is located off the southern coast of Jaiman just east of Meluria. The First Gate through the wall surrounding the complex was roughly 500 feet up in the air, guarded by a garrison of soldiers and serving as a bottleneck leading to a main gate further down the road which opens into a guard tower.
The Gate of Knowledge is a third gate beyond this tower, but is usually left open and leads into the inner court of the complex facing the library itself. The stairway of the library has a raised marble platform at its center, with a 30 foot tall black marble statue of Andraax. Interestingly enough, the middle of the court has a Navigator obelisk, allowing such travelers to bypass all of the prior security.
The surface of the complex is where the housing is located for long-term visitors of the library. There are a variety of stables and gardens within the complex walls, as well as a chapel and monastery for monks Valris (Lumnis). Guests have three tiers of housing: common apartments and cloisters, scholar's apartments which are slightly better, and lords' apartments which are a few suites reserved for visiting royalty.
There are cloisters for the Scribes and Warriors on either side of the inner court, and beyond the Scribes' Cloister there is lodging for the servant staff of the library. There is also an herb garden, infirmary, observatory, and a large kitchen for the whole complex.
The Library Building
The Library has several levels which descend into subterranean chambers within the cliff. On the surface level, the library is an enormous building with 100 foot walls, with a golden dome that reaches twice as high. There are eight hundred-foot blue marble columns surrounding an enormous doorway eighty feet high and sixty feet wide that slides closed at night. There are always several Changramai guards searching visitors through this access point. The glass windows are specially coated to prevent damage by sunlight, with magical orbs providing ambient lighting indoors.
Within the doorway is a crescent-shaped desk staffed with Scribes who direct visitors to the proper locations. The library texts are not available for browsing at all, each section has a catalogue desk where the librarians consult wheels of slim metal plates to locate the works. These texts are housed in balconies all the way up to the ceiling, inaccessible to anyone other than library staff.
The stairwell leading down into the underground portions of the library are located right behind the main desk in the entry foyer. There are three wings from the central room, with the special collection on the north side and the research collection on the south. Down the eastern hallway is a set of workshops where the Scribes make copies of scrolls and manuscripts.
These collections are guarded. Visitors would not be on this level unless they had first been directed that way by the librarians, which itself would only have happened after a research approval process. It would not be possible to magically transport to or from the subterranean chamber without tripping off wardings and enchanted alarms.
While there was a port at the base of the island, the library complex was a separate self-contained community with its own support staff. Most of the work is performed by the Scribes themselves, who are always male and trained from a young age as initiates. However, there is also a security staff, as well as servants. This is not including the permanent residents who work the chapel and live in the monastery, or the possibility of visiting Loremaster advisors. Furthermore, GemStone specific lore established the existence of a Council, which sent Scribes on information seeking missions. In the Shadow World lore these world traveling Scribes are usually Sages by profession.
Selias Jodame was an example of this with his report on Silver Valley, though the official modernized version of the story describes him as loremaster advisor to the council. His journals would have most likely been in the research collection at the time Bandur Etrevion was living at the library, who would have been looking for lore related to the region his brother ruled. This would have led to the discovery of the portal to The Broken Lands. Ditmar the Mad was an explicit example of a Scribe of Nomikos who was sent to investigate what is now called the krolvin population of Glaoveln.
The Director of the entire Library complex was the Chief Scribe, whose office was in the underground foyer along with the associate chief scribes. He is responsible for deciding who is allowed access to the special collection. The last known Chief Scribe was named Niros. The hierarchy beneath the Chief Scribe has never been well-defined.
Scribes are a large force of library workers responsible for most of the upkeep to the whole complex. Young acolytes perform the skilled labor such as repairing the building and tending the gardens, but are also required to take classes. Older scribes are responsible for copying or translating library texts, as well as teaching the classes, but are also required to perform some manual labor as part of the communal environment. The most senior scribes wear ornate amulets, and can be recognized by how many keys they are carrying. Their own books are written in the dead language of Enris-Sokal, which was an especially terse, popular alternative to Iylari as the intellectual standard in Shadow World.
The Scribes could also be quite formidable with magic, which is a large part of the reason no one has been foolish enough to attempt to conquer them. However, they were not principally concerned with security, being focused mostly on library services and maintenance. They did not live a strictly ascetic lifestyle, they were allowed to visit the port to spend their small wages on ale and women once a week. The Scribes had a creed that said books were the substance of history, and that they delivered understanding and wisdom so the past could be used to know the present and comprehend the future.
"Scribe-emissaries" would be found in all sorts of unusual places around the world, conducting research along with attendant Changramai and a Navigator. Scribes were typically very smug, and unwilling to share information. There was a saying that it was "harder than getting the day of the month from a Scribe" whenever someone was being exceptionally unforthcoming. They were supposedly impossible to bribe.
There are a variety of servants to perform unskilled menial labor such as housekeeping. The kitchen staff belongs to this category as well. The farmers, fishermen, and craftsmen who support the overall society would more likely live down by the port. Library fees are ultimately what support the whole community in terms of finance, presumably relying heavily on imports.
The Changramai are an unusual mystical warrior-monk school that was founded shortly before the Library itself. They are masters of unarmed combat, have some sort of religion involving Cay (Kai), and oddly rent themselves out at a high price (much as the Palestra in the modern history.) They are responsible for searching everyone who passes through the library gates, and are rumored to be able to tell a liar by the sound of their voice. Changramai were legendary for their skills, such as grabbing arrows out of the air and running up walls.
They have their own compound within the library complex, and do not interact socially with the Scribes or anyone else. They never leave the complex itself. The soldiers of the library are distinct from the Changramai, who were trained to act only as bodyguards and security experts rather than military.
The Wardens are the soldiers who guard the First Gate and prevent anyone who should not be there from ever getting near the inside of the walls.
The Library is divided into three collections with variable degrees of restriction on access. The public collection is located on the entry level of the library, while the special and research collections are below ground. The prestige of the library lies more so with these more restricted collections, which are the allure for young men who wish to become Scribes so they will have the opportunity for access.
The largest collection in terms of number of physical volumes is available to the public, and contains works of general interest such as histories, maps, and language translations. There are several copies of every book, which are constantly being copied by scribes. These books can be selected for use lasting as long as a month, with personal copies allowed to leave the library. Scribes find the works themselves, and bring them to a reading niche. Books are physically large, 1 foot by 1.5 feet or even 3 feet by 4 feet, made out of hand copied parchments or very coarse paper.
There are three wings to the public collection. The rear wing contains basic reference works such as basic science, maps, bestiaries, and dictionaries. Scrolls are kept in the right wing and rolled with labeling ribbon, usually texts of things like literature and poetry. Manuscripts are bound into books in the left wing, most lying flat in individual niches like in the crypt of The Graveyard (very unlikely a coincidence.)
The research collection contains many rare and original manuscripts. Only scholars with approved research proposals are allowed to use the research collection, which involves a 10 day waiting period and allows them access to a copying service. The offices of the highest ranking scribes are located around the foyer leading into the research and special collection wings.
The scroll room contains special tubes to preserve the fragile texts, and past it the manuscript room uses protective covers. There are special carrels for viewing texts within the research and special collections so that it is not possible to walk out unnoticed.
Unlike the public and research collections, this underground section is climate controlled with ancient technologies that no one would know how to fix, as the library was founded by a Lord of Essaence. The special vaults are filled with neutral gas designed to prevent decay, each with its own lock, and some documents are locked behind glass so they cannot be removed from its vault. Only the Librarian can allow access to the special collection, and only Scribes are allowed to actually enter the vault room.
Researchers must read these works in cubicles under the constant watch of a Scribe. The special collection contains ancient artifacts dating back from before recorded history, such as the Lord of Essaence speaking crystal Bandur Etrevion was caught stealing when he tripped an enchanted alarm system. (These crystals were halfway to incomprehensible from referring to completely unfamiliar concepts in the dead language of Iruaric.) Bandur was allowed the unheard of privilege of unlimited access to the library given the nature of his work and its importance in the struggle against Lorgalis.
When visitors first arrive at the front desk of the library, they have to sign a contract agreeing to a set of rules and fees:
(1) Library fee of 1 gold piece per day, with a surcharge if using the special collections. (2) Repair fees for any unintentional damage to books. (3) Fines if caught attempting to deface, disassemble, or steal books. (4) Do not question and obey instructions from all Library officials and security personnel.
While copying services are available and book access varies by collection, no book is ever actually allowed to leave the library itself. If anyone is caught attempting to smuggle out library property, they are severely fined and permanently banned from the library forever. Bandur Etrevion was bitter for the rest of his life when he was banned. It would be extremely difficult for him to steal manuscripts from the special collection. The vultite manuscript in the crypt would have belonged to the Empress Kadaena herself, as that was an advanced Lord of Essaence preservation technique. It was most likely stolen from the special collection, or possibly the research collection. There is an "official seal" on the manuscript that was modernized as: "Property of the Library of Biblia, Reference Department. Do Not Remove."
The Library was used as the source for document releases in the I.C.E. Age, in much the same way as Library Aies is now used in GemStone IV.
- A Popular History of the Broken Lands
- A Popular History of Shadow Valley
- The Legend of the Necropolis of Etrevion
- Ditmar's Tale
- Grot t'kel potions
Behind the Scenes
The Library of Biblia is located on the Isle of Ornath, which in the I.C.E. Age was the Library of Nomikos on the Isle of Ormian. Nomikos might also have been the root word for Nantu. It was the source of several very old stories, but does not exist on any map for Elanthia. The Isle of Ormian was located off the south coast between Jaiman and Emer, which became Jontara and Finnia respectively. It would have been south of Ta'Nalfein on the modern map by way of analogy. Nomikos may have been accessible during a quest in the I.C.E. Age, but Biblia has not yet been accessible modernly.