It’s a library. Just like any other library. But approaching the steps, you’re not so sure this is just any collection of books. It’s too well tucked away and far too majestic. It’s taken you months to track down this particular place but being a Collector of Knowledge, it’s your job to find such places and you’re good at what you do.
Several months before you found a reference in a dusty tomb–not a book, a crypt–to The Wall of Secrets. It caught your interest because you’ve never heard of such a place before and you’ve been around. People come to you specifically because you’re a Collector. You know things in a world where most don’t leave a five mile radius of home. They’re too scared to when traveling’s all but outlawed.
But you travel anyway, Collecting so Knowledge won’t be lost. The night’s full of animals and the day’s full of bandits but it’s your world and you’re comfortable with it.
But you’re not sure you’re comfortable with this new place you’ve found. It’s a single building in the middle of a canyon. Atop the canyon walls rise trees but down on the canyon floor is only dry, cracked dirt. There’s evidence of flooding but it’s been a long time since the area’s seen enough rain to wash the canyon clean.
The building’s square and made of brick with a small porch leading to the front door. The back of the building abuts against the tall canyon wall. It’s red like desert clay. A single building. You’d think it’d be abandoned but up in the higher windows you can see movement.
Gathering your courage, you climb the three porch steps and push the door open. The thing must be made of metal, because it’s heavy and cold to the touch. It groans as it swings on its hinges.
Stepping inside, you pause. You’re in a brightly lit entryway with a massive staircase leading up to the right and left onto the second story. The dust from your shoes has already left prints on the immaculate wooden floor that shines beneath your feet.
“Welcome,” calls a voice.
Looking to the left, a woman emerges from a doorway. She’s smiling at you and as she nears, she holds out her hands.
“Welcome, I am Annette” she says again and grasps either side of your face to kiss your cheek. Her hands are incredibly soft. “What do you seek at the Library?”
“Seek?” You’re a bit fuddled. No one’s ever greeted you in such a fashion before.
“Are you hungry?”
You simply nod.
You follow her into the room she emerged from and are taken to a couch with a coffee table. Farther into the room rises heavy shelving with books. It’s a wealth of Knowledge. Your fingers itch to explore but on the table is a plate with small sandwiches. To be polite, you pick one up.
“Now,” Annette smiles, “what do you seek? the most common answers are history or religion.”
Both topics are hard to come by anymore. There are, of course, local histories and religions, but the stuff of ages has been lost to most. But you know the land you travel used to be one large nation united under one belief system. You’ve come across references, tidbits only because most of the references were destroyed.
So do you say…
Collector of Knowledge Option A: History
History might show you a bit of both considering religion often plays a large part in shaping events. Finishing the small sandwich, you smile at Annette and say, “history.”
She smiles back and rises gracefully. “If you’re done, then, I’ll show you to the history section.”
“Please,” you rise to follow her, eager to start Collecting. “How is it,” you ask as she leads you from the room and up the stairs to the second floor, “that this place hasn’t been destroyed? I was under the impression the emperor burned any place with such a wealth.”
“He tried but bricks don’t burn and men of evil heart don’t pass.”
“Men of evil hearts don’t pass?”
She waves a hand toward the large entry door below. “It tests all who enter. Even soldiers, good men, who are acting on the behalf of an evil ruler, are not allowed entry. You are the first in three decades to pass.”
Annette barely looks old enough to be thirty but she’s got a sense of agelessness about her. How old is she? You don’t ask. The answer might frighten you.
“Why are you so willing to show me the library?”
“If the library let you in, it is my duty to assist you. It’s not for me to judge who the library deems worthy.”
You open your mouth to ask further but then you snap it shut as you turn a corner and find, not a section of books, but a huge mural. It covers a wall so large you have to turn your head left and right and up and down to take in the whole picture. It’s a throne room with marble arches spanning to the sides and a throne in the upper middle. The painting creates such depth that you feel you could walk forward into it.
“Wow,” you mutter. After a moment of gawking, though, you come back to your mission. Knowledge. “This is quite interesting, but I came to see the books.”
Annette shakes her head. “This is part of the Wall of Secrets, my dear. It is a more–interactive way–to see the books.”
“I’m afraid I don’t understand.”
“Come touch the paint.”
You follow her a bit hesitantly and reach out a questioning hand toward the wall. The paint’s so thick you can see brush strokes and ridges but you’re so close now, you can’t really make out the picture. As your fingers contact the wall, your ears go dead with a thwamp and your eyes cross as your peripheral vision blurs.
You pull back with a gasp and Annette steadies you with a hand on your arm.
“What was that?!”
“A more interactive experience. On the other side, you’ll see a similar mural that resembles the library. When you want to return, touch it. Don’t stay too long though, because the longer you stay, the more that mural will change.”
“But…but…” you sputter.
“You’re a Collector, yes?”
“Then there is no better way to Collect. Try it.”
You hesitate but are drawn by the prospect of how much you can learn. So you touch the mural again. Thwamp.
Stumbling, you fall onto your knees on hard black marble. Hands grab you from behind and lift you roughly to your feet.
“Caught a spy, your Majesty!” The man who’s got ahold of you is wearing armor like you’ve never seen emblazoned with a sun and aspen leaf on his chest.
“Come forward.” The voice is deep and you look around until you locate a short man sitting on the throne. It’s amazing such a deep sound came from him but it must be because the soldier hauls you forward.
“Strange spy,” mutters the King. “What kind of cloak is that? Never mind. Where are you from?”
Telling him the truth will surely sound insane but you know nothing of where you are at the moment. You glance at the mural on the King’s back wall. It’s way too far away for you to get to it.
So do you…
Aa. Tell the truth?
Ab. Make something up?
Collector of Knowledge Option Aa: Tell the Truth
You’re sure the King will know if you lie. You just don’t have enough details about the past to even know which King you’re facing.
So it’s time for insanity.
“You’ve a beautiful mural,” you comment. “Have you ever been to the Library?”
The King sits up straighter. Even with his back straight, the throne dwarfs the small man. His eyes dart right and left and he mutters something that sounds like ‘chance.’
“Library’s fascinating, isn’t it?” he replies.
He frowns. “When you look at the mural, what section of the library do you see?”
You turn to look. Does he mean what part did you come through or what part is on the other side of history?
The mural shows the banister that protects the upstairs balcony. Beyond that banister shows great, towering windows and you’re sure these are the ones that sit above the entry door. So it’s not a section you’re looking at. In fact, the mural more displays the sun peeking over the canyon wall outside the window than the interior of the library. So he’s asking what section you came through.
Does he understand the Wall of Secrets?
He must, you figure, for why else would he care.
Looking back at the King, he’s standing, watching you with sharp interest.
“I see the sun,” you say. “Not a section.”
His nostrils flare and the soldier who found you backhands you. Falling to the floor with a surprised cry, you land on your side.
“Enough!” the King says. His deep voice echoes through the room. “You know what I’m asking.”
You take your time rising as the side of your face throbs. You’re starting to suspect this is King Ramus, a man who lost everything to the emperor about a hundred years ago. Brief references of King Ramus all agree, he was short and had an evil temper.
“History,” you say, meeting the King’s eyes.
He grins. “What time?”
The grin turns calculating. “You came through to learn history, I assume.”
You simply nod, not really interested in Collecting at the moment. The look in the King’s eyes reminds you of a bird of prey. You start to debate how to get back to the mural without him stopping you. Doesn’t look promising with the soldier beside you and, when you glance back, the group of soldiers now standing by the mural.
“Let me show you History, then,” the King descends the stairs from his throne and walks between the pillars to your left. The soldier pushes you to follow him. After stumbling, you regain your balance and step forward fast enough to avoid another push.
On the other side of the marble pillars the room curves in a circle. The wall contains open windows. Narrow things that run from about three feet off the floor all the way to the vaulted ceiling above. The King stands by one of these.
You move to look out and see what has his interest. Below lies a massive city. You’re sure now, this is King Ramus and the city is Quadell. Before the emperor conquered the land, Quadell was the largest city in the nation.
You’ve never seen anything like it because the emperor destroyed all defensible cities. People now live in small villages, scattered far and wide.
You’re so taken with looking at the city that you miss what’s beyond the walls for a second. Then your eyes widen.
The walls are massive along with the city but even still, you see beyond a dark mass involving tents and flags and large machinery. The city’s under siege from an army so vast you can’t see the land beyond it.
“I’ll fill in your History on one condition, you take me back through the mural,” King Ramus says. “You refuse, I’ll throw you into the holds and let the emperor kill you when he takes the city.
Your Collector side sparks with interest. This is a rich chance to fill in areas the emperor has tried to suppress and you can get back through the mural alive. But then you hold back because, being a Collector, you know the outcome of the siege. King Ramus gives the city over but with conditions that save most of the population. Without those conditions, a lot of people would die. But perhaps you can agree and trick the King, still leaving him here and getting away. Looking around, you’re not sure you can trick him. Not with so many soldiers.
So do you…
Aa1. Agree to his terms?
Ab2. Refuse and take your chances?
Collector of Knowledge Option Aa2: Refuse and Take Your Chances
The King’s known for his anger and you now he’ll do as he threatens if you refuse but as you look out over the massive city below, you can’t help but think of all the lives that will be lost if you take the King away. He’s the only thing that keeps the Emperor from completely destroying Quadell. You couldn’t live with the knowledge that you’d assisted in such a masacre.
That and you have no idea what would happen over all if a key figure in history disappeared. It surely would change a lot of things.
“I can’t accept,” you say quietly.
“Fool,” the King says. “We’ll make you take me anyway.”
He gestures to the soldier, who grabs your arm and forces you to follow the King as he walks to the mural. Then the King grasps ahold of your shoulder and the soldier reaches to force your hands up to touch the mural.
You try to step back and fling an elbow out to the side. There’s a satisfying grunt from the King when you hit him in the stomach. He lets go but the soldier does not.
Quickly they have you back in place and you’re forced to touch the paint.
“Take us through!” The King demands.
“I can’t,” you stutter, just as surprised.
He releases your shoulder with a shove that pushes you into the mural.
Why didn’t it work? Did it know I didn’t want to go back yet?
“To the holds with you. Out of my sight!”
The soldier grasps your arms and shoves you toward a door to the left of the mural. He directs you through the palace this way and you’re well below the throne room when drum beats make you and the soldier pause.
“Attack,” he says. He hesitates, clearly not sure what to do with you now that there’s something more pressing on him.
“Aw, go away,” he shoves you one last time and races away.
You try to follow him but end up a bit lost until you hear the clash of swords. That’s got to be the throne room. If nothing else, it’s coming from above you.
You race toward the stairs and up into chaos. There are soldiers with the familiar Quadell emblazon on their armor and others you don’t know. Flames eat away at anything burnable in the throne room, including the mural.
You’re so shocked that you don’t see the foreign soldier until it’s too late. You’ve no sword to defend yourself.
I’m afraid your story from here is quite short. May you rest in peace, Collector of Knowledge.
A tragic but heroic ending. You saved a lot of lives.
But perhaps you’re not thrilled with how everything turned out. No worries, there are eight possible endings to Collector of Knowledge, so I’ll run the adventure again sometime in the future=)
Monday will bring a new story, so I hope to see you then.
Blessings and have a wonderful weekend,