And concerning the number of books, the establishment of libraries, and the collection in the Hall of the Muses, why need I even speak, since they are all in men's memories? AthenaeusThe Hidden Library is one of the largest hermetic chantries in the world, and the definitely largest in Egypt. Still, its influence and even contact with the sleeping world is minimal, and most of its activities occur inside central Alexandria or in the Horizon realm.
The style is a curious mixture of Arabian and roman architecture: winding corridors overlooking atria walled by latticework, ceilings covered with enamel tiles and carried by marble pillars, tiny cells filled with oriental splendour or the austerity of the stoics. And everywhere there are bookshelves, niches with art, tapestries and mats of extraordinary value and beauty. Along the walls magickal lanterns shine brightly, leaving no corner in total shadow. The air is slightly dry, with a hint of spices, incense and parchment.
The true centre of the Library is the Room of Secrets. The Room contains the most powerful, secret or sacred books of the library, only accessible to the High Librarian and very rarely shown to very high-ranking mages with important missions. Of course, through the years dozens of less great-spirited mages have tried to find it and break in, but all attempts have failed. The security is completely magickal. To reach the Room, one has to walk a secret path through the labyrinth of the Library, at certain points using magick to activate certain spells. If this is not done in the right way, one will not find one's way into the Room; some of the spells also tell the current High Librarian that they have been activated.
The Room itself is an octagonal chamber with a domed roof and gold and blue tiled floor, lit up by ever burning lamps. Inside it lies many of the greatest books the Order of Hermes have ever acquired, and at the centre on a pedestal lies the original Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistros. What other books are present is unknown; it has been argued that the Book of Thoth is hidden in here, as well as the original 22 Atu and the proscribed writings of Heylel. The High Librarians will not tell, and the visitors rarely reveal anything they have seen in this chamber. The pure weight of knowledge gathered here creates unusual effects, and the Room also serves as the main node of the chantry.
Another important node is the hidden tomb of Alexander the Great. It lies hidden beneath modern Alexandria, a mausoleum/temple for the world conqueror carved out of limestone and white marble. His warlike life doesn't fit in well with the rest of the Library, but the librarians are bound by an old compact made with the dying Cult of Seraphis in the fourth century to keep the tomb in shape, light the holy lamps and burn the incense. In exchange, the power and protection of Alexander extends to the Library, which may explain its long survival. Some of the mages argue that the tomb symbolises man's apotheosis into godhead, a secret symbol for how mundane power can be transmuted into spiritual ascension.
Some of the most important councillors are the councillor of knowledge, the councillor of upkeep and the councillor of diplomacy. The councillor of knowledge is responsible for the index, the ability to find the knowledge hidden in the myriad tomes. The councillor of upkeep is responsible for the magickal and physical upkeep and the defence of the chantry; an important but not well respected position. The councillor of diplomacy is responsible for contacts with other chantries, greeting most guests (low-ranking guests will have to do with his secretary, and VIPs are greeted by the High Librarian himself) and "foreign affairs" in general.
The Pinakes (Tables) are the indices of the Library, in themselves a large set of books and scrolls guarded by the librarians. While many of the books in the Library are accessible to all members of the chantry, some are restricted and requires special permission to read. A few are even secret; the librarians are not to reveal their existence to people to seek them, but are instructed to report it to the Council.
Borrowing books is in theory possible, but usually the Library demands that they are to be studied there. To be allowed to borrow a book the seeker must first explain the purpose to the librarians, and in the case of more valuable tomes the request will be decided by the High Librarian and the councillors. If the seeker lends books of equal rarity to the Library, then the process is considerably smoothed. Copying books is allowed, as long as it is done by hand.
The first recorded Librarian was Zenodotus of Ephesus, holding that post from the end of Ptolemy I's reign until 245 BC. His successor Callimachus of Cyrene created the subject catalogue of the 120,000 scrolls. He was in turn followed by Apollonius of Rhodes and was succeeded in 235 by Eratosthenes of Cyrene, the Stoic geographer and mathematician, author of "tetagmenos epi teis megaleis bibliothekeis", the "scheme of the great bookshelves" and discoverer of the "Sieve", a way to calculate prime numbers. The last recorded librarian was Aristarchus of Samothrace, the astronomer, who took up the position in 180 BC. and was driven out during dynastic struggles between two Ptolemies. The library persisted long after, but the names of the librarians are not known.
The Museion and the Serapheion had become two of the most important chantries for the Order of Hermes, but it also invited mages from the Celestial Chorus, Artificers and the various priesthoods. Together they explored magick and knowledge, creating a vision of an universe ruled by order and beauty.
Unfortunately, the Library also became the focus for attacks. The Cult of Nun, always undermining order and being, began to work against the Library. During the chaos of Julius Caesar's Egyptian war they set fire to one of the libraries but were prevented from attacking the other chantries by choristers loyal to the Library. During the Roman era the Library flourished, but far-seeing mages realised that a storm was slowly brewing.
Fractions of the Celestial Chorus saw the Alexandria chantries as dangerous pagan hotbeds where free, unrestrained thought led the thinkers away from the simple truths of the One. The anti-intellectual choristers were clearly growing in strength as the Christian faith spread.
When the mages began to realise that their days in the open were numbered, they began to secretly hide away the greatest secrets. The hidden library was created, and the books were gradually moved into it. During the descent of the Roman empire many of the greatest mages of the epoch convened at the Library to help it hide their greatest secrets.
The event that made the Library finally go into hiding was the murder of Hypatia, daughter of Theon in 415 on the order of St. Cyril.
Originally they planned to hide away the scrolls for just a century after being forced underground and the re-emerge, but later events made them remain in hiding.
For several centuries the hidden library was almost entirely cut off from reality, while Alexandria became a small backwater city. It became a self- contained world preserving wisdom without thought of the outside. The number of mages and acolytes slowly dwindled, and the halls gathered dust. Year after year the routines repeated, the bright flame of knowledge slowly dwindling. Finally, in desperation the High Librarian Cnidius used his magick to seek contact with the outside, both hoping and fearing to find fellow mages. The meeting in 970 between the Ahl-I-Batini and the librarians was a surprise to both of them, but in time they both realised that the event must have been pre-ordained by the Highest.
The synthesis between the classical treasures of the Library and the secretive wisdom of the Ahl-I-Batini revitalised the library profoundly. Several groups of batini mages joined the library (most notably the Brethren of Purity) and together with the remaining librarians began to restore it to its former glory. They kept it a secret, only revealing it to their most trusted allies. Slowly the whispers spread: the Library had been restored, and the ancient truths once more were in the open. The Solificati, the Order of Hermes and the early Order of Reason joined the Batini in the mission of the Library. Its effects were profound, and affected all the traditions as copies of ancient texts were made, ideas were rediscovered and dogmas questioned in the light of truth. It was in many ways the secret birthplace for the renaissance.
As time went on, the Library went from a closely kept secret to a secret fellowship to a rumoured chantry to a well respected chantry. Despite the magickal decline of Egypt under the Mamuluks and Ottomans, the Library grew. As the Ascension War heated up, the Library became one of the firmest bastions of the Logomantic traditions, defended at all costs from other groups (including the former allies of the Order of Reason, who now questioned its truths with the Enlightenment). It became a fortress of knowledge, powerful, influential but never very active in the physical world.
He is an energetic old man with long white hair, a high brow and thin spectacles. He usually speaks softly and warmly, but can at a moments notice turn cold and imperious if somebody speaks against him. He knows the depths of his knowledge and responsibilities, and does not hesitate to point them out if needed.
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