Library of Arindell
The Library of Arindell is the largest and oldest public library in the Alliance, second only to the collection at Gudersnipe School Proper as the largest library in the verse. It is located in the city of Arindell, and there is some question whether the city is named for the library or vice-versa.
The library is best known for housing an extremely powerful permanent enchantment that, through a means not known to modern magewrights, protects any written material inside the structure and surrounding caves. The enchantment is said to be incredibly complex; and experiments done inside show that while a blank piece of paper will burn, one with any sort of markings on it (even simple indentations with no meaning) will not. How the spell can tell the difference is unknown.
In addition to proof against fire, the spell prevents aging and degradation: books thousands of years old appear in the same state they were when brought to the library. Old books do not immediately degrade when taken outside; but will begin to age normally and become susceptible to any number of book problems.
Books within the library are subject to normal wear and tear. Spines break and pages fall out; but individual pages with writing are basically indestructible. A single sheet of paper, so long as there are words on it, is capable of stopping a bullet as long as it's inside the library.
Size and Layout
The exact size of the library is not known with any certainty. The Central Stack, which contains the greatest concentration of books, is approximately half a mile across and five floors high. Each floor is approximately fifty feet apart, with shelves from floor to ceiling. The top floor has shelves extending up fifty feet, with the grand arches another hundred feet above them in the center. Several massive skylights made of crystal provide natural light while filtering out harmful rays. Light wells between the floors ensure that the entire Central Stack is well-lit.
The library winds its way into what was once a natural valley intersecting with the main Stormreaver Valley. The whole thing was covered over by a roof, and extensive earthworks put into place to divert water. The exact length of the Central Stack is variously given at between ten and twelve miles; though this is just the region mapped by Eieber, and the true 'back' is unknown.
In addition to the Central Stack, hundreds of miles of tunnels, some incorporating natural caves, and thousands of large rooms and galleries, extend out on either side. These, too, are poorly mapped and mostly stuffed with books. Additional catacombs are known beneath the Central Stack. Some of this space is used by the modern library staff for storage and to provide amenities. There is even a modern-cut tunnel complete with a tram that leads to a large building just outside the main entrance, where the administrative offices for the library reside.
Some of the tunnels and chambers on the northern-side of the facility have been given over to the Stormwind Antiquarian Society, and used primarily to house their rare books archive. The magical aura that protects written material extends into this area, so while not considered part of the library-proper, the archives are kept safe. While a little of this space is used for meeting rooms, much of what does not house the collection is devoted to private research spaces rented to Antiquarians. This allows research material borrowed from the rare books archive, as well as the library itself, to remain within the aura.
The Library of Arindell predates recorded history, but just what was written down is pretty impressive:
The presence of the enchantment, which has been unarguably demonstrated to be magical in nature and not some form of hitherto undocumented technology, is a strong indicator that the the structure actually pre-dates Antiquity. Given the extreme specificity of the enchantment and finds of extremely old texts, the facts strongly indicate that the library was built during the Age of Myth, most probably as an archive. Mythologists theorize that it was built towards the end of the era as a way to preserve as much knowledge as possible through the Breaking of the World.
Exactly when the Library was first built is unknown, but it pre-dates into Antiquity. The presence of writing in the Ancient language throughout the structure proves that it was used by them, but whether or not it was then a library remains unclear. The library is mentioned in several surviving secondary sources, but the use of the word in Scholar is difficult to pin down, some accounts indicate it as a storehouse of knowledge, others point more towards an archive. Many interpretations made in the late Sixth Age(when knowledge of Ancient became widely available), support the previously-held myth-connection, that the library was part of a pre-Roads War dooms-day archive, and later recycled for this purpose during Greater Antiquity.
In the Age of Darkness its existence was known, and that it was full of "many aged and rare texts of great antiquity". So by at least the late period of the Age of Darkness, someone somewhere had figured out that there was a building full of books up there.
Stormreaver Valley where the library is located, belonged to the nation of Ataya, who had a long-standing pact with the High Mountain Flight to whom the land belonged. There were a few settlements in the valley at the time, although the removal made population growth difficult.
Mage Wars Era
The area around the Library was inhabited by Atayans during the entire Mage Wars, but their written records were lost during the Second Chaotic Period. Nothing survives of their exploration of the valley, but it is believed that they never entered the library itself.
From the Mage Wars, many accounts survive of expeditions dispatched to reach the library, with very few reports of success. By then it was believed that many magical tomes must be there, so any mage who could control the library could control the world.
However, being in the territory of a dragon flight is a good way for any building to remain safe. The High Mountain Flight was territorial, refused all alliances, and defended its sovereignty to the death. Only the local Atayans were allowed into the valley, though mostly for farming, and sparse population. Some accounts persist that the valley was once littered with ancient ruins, and that these were used to build Atayan homes.
In the late Dynastic Period, the Marcon Alliance combined with Ozork Flight and launched a campaign to conquer Stormreaver Valley, convinced the library contained magical artifacts of great power. The attack devastated Ataya, as they had to go right through the country to reach the mountain pass. The invasion was repelled, but provided cover for a few very small raiding parties from other nations to reach the library and unlock its secrets.
What they found was not tomes of magic, but a vast storehouse of books on every subject. These early expeditions could accomplish little, with the constant threat of dragon attack at their backs, and none brought back more than a few volumes.
The library was largely ignored during this time, as literally everything else was on fire. it wasn't until Eieber began to end the Mage Wars that another expedition was made. Eieber had grown up in Stormreaver Valley, his family farm quite literally in the shadow of the building itself. His diaries reveal that his lineage had worked that plot of land for generations, possibly even as far back as the Age of Darkness, though this supposition is regarded as anecdotal because Atayan history does not extend as far. According to the diaries, Eieber's father believed his family were, in some form, stewards of the Library. Again this is considered highly anecdotal as only a few lines from Eieber's journal make mention of it.
Eieber led an expedition into the mountains to the Eerie of the High Mountain Flight, some members of which he had known all his life. He asked them, rather humbly, to join his alliance, and the Flight agreed.
Eieber would eventually found a city in Stormreaver Valley, called Arindell. No verified accounts exist that confirm if this was the ancient name for the library or a name given it by Eieber.
In A.Y. 134, Eieber officially established the Library of Arindell. Few records were kept about its contents upon opening, but very quickly books were brought in from all the known worlds. Many of the volumes in place before the library's grand opening were moved into various store-rooms and stacks all over a surprisingly massive complex. Only the main floor, itself one of the largest chambers ever constructed, would remain in use and open to the public.
The Library stayed in continuous use for the next six thousand years, operating as the main public library and national archives of the Alliance. Supposedly, one copy of every book published anywhere in the Alliance could be found at the library, though this was technically and logistically impossible. For all its size, even one copy of every non-fiction book could never fit in the massive structure.
The Library did house an extremely large collection of historical and geographical books from all over the Alliance, with attempts to preserve factual information foremost among the librarian's duties. Rare manuscripts and ancient documents were often brought to the Library to be stored, to take advantage of permanent enchantments that protected them from fire and decay.
Numerous artifacts also found their way into the library, including numerous Slayer Dragon reliquaries, and objects of great power from the Mage Wars. Books of magic, as well, including actual spellbooks as well as tomes, were secreted into the library and hidden away in dark, sealed passages. The practice of hiding things in plain sight, as it were, was common throughout the First and Second Ages.
During the Third Age a large portion of the main floor was put off-limits. The only "seal" was of velvet ropes and signs, but electric lighting was not installed in those sections and the public was sternly told to stay out of them (and really, who isn't afraid of librarians?).
Only about a quarter of the first two stories of the main floor would be part of the public library portion from then on. This area included a resturant, gift shop, and, of course, a bookstore. Guided tours of "the stacks" (as the bookshelves were called) took people into other parts of the main floor, and researchers were often granted access.
By the Fourth Age, however, the true dangers of the library became clear. In addition to the large 'main floor' were a series of wings, as well as possibly hundreds of miles of tunnels. They had once been mapped, but the maps were not maintained and had never been accurate. People were lost in the labyrinth; a few did die, and the librarians chose to seal off everything but the main floor.
The process actually took most of the age, as a system to seal and unseal the various areas had to be perfected. It was also desirable to use the sealed sections for storage: the library was constantly expanding its collection, and a long-standing rule (in place since Eieber's time) forbade ever getting rid of a book.
Older books were still moved into the stacks, and the practicality of sealing off was finally realized. The solution, instead, was to further restrict access, and add guards and electronic surveilence to keep people in the public sections.
After the Age of the Dragon
The Library would endure all through the six ages of the Alliance and past the Age of the Dragon, until the city was finally abandoned on the eve of the Long Night. The Librarians didn't have the resources to seal the whole library, as they had when Eieber was a child, but fortunately the dragons were willing to step in.
Over the course of several centuries, they built a second roof over the first, of massive stone arches fused with dragon fire. The spaces between these were then filled, and eventually an entire artificial mountain constructed over the Library, forever obscuring it from outside view.
For over three thousand years, not a solitary soul would set foot in the great Library of Arindell. It was sent away, forgotten. Rumors of its destruction widely circulated throughout the Long Night; anyone interesting in plundering its secrets would hear that it was burned by the Alliance as they retreated from Arindell. Those foolhardy enough to go looking for it anyway would find no trace of it, and probably end up in dragons' stomachs for their troubles.