The Black Vaults of Alagadda
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The Black Vaults of Alagadda

The Poison Fruit, the Library's Corrupted Seed1

Conspectus

In a time now lost to the pages of history, the Wanderers' Library was the greatest source of knowledge among the Tree's branches and roots. All knowledge, no matter how humdrum or prized, feared or loved, harmless or terrifying, could be found to those who had the strength and clarity to search among its halls.

But Alagadda's sickening corruption knows no bounds. The Master of the Slain2, 3 plunged a dagger into the Library's heart, leaving a gaping wound that bleeds to this day, and has brought a dearth of souls down to its damnable city.

Knowledge

Traits: The Vaults of Alagadda are filled with the plunder from the Sacking of the Library, every tome and text that the Prince of the Gallows and his demons treacherously stole. One might describe the nature of those texts as those associated with "forbidden knowledge," which is a laughable claim — knowledge is only forbidden to those not strong enough to withstand it.4, 5 What is true is that the One Who Was Hung had taken only the most powerful sources of knowledge, the secrets that have propelled seeker after seeker in search of them. The nature of the devourer Yaldaboath and her destroyer angels. The sixteen names of the Scarlet King. The terrible birth of the Wonder-Maker. The whispered confessions of the last King of the Night Apes. Like a fly to a spider, the secrets hidden within these vaults have lured countless souls into Alagadda's web.

Nature: The nature of the Black Vaults can be understood as a twisted reflection of the Library, as befits something grown from a corrupted seed. Where the Library is an altruistic source of knowledge and enlightenment, free to any who wish to enter, the Vaults of Alagadda are selfishly locked away to the private benefit of its master, akin an arrogant dragon perched upon its jealously guarded horde.

History & Associated Parties: Once, it is said, in a time when the world was new, the ruler of Alagadda was a patron of the Tree of Knowledge like any other.6, 7 Through magic or trickery it found itself at the center of a following, which was referred to at the time as the "King's Court" (though even in the days of old, no one knew from where it had been crowned). The King's Court quickly grew to become the largest bloc within the Library, starving out or assimilating smaller ones. Those within the King's Court began to think of the Hooded One as their sovereign, rather than a fellow patron. Archivists began heeding the Court's "advice" when it came to their duties, showering them with preferential treatment at first, eventually progressing to the point where they would come to the King's Court each morning to heed their instructions. At one point the group had held such sway that they could bar entry into the Library to anyone they deemed unworthy, which coincidentally was always those who had questioned their worrying influence.

The height of the King's Court's power came to an end with the Sacking of the Library. Few dare to speak of those times, but it is said that entire shelves burned and ink and blood flowed in equal measure. At the end of it all dozens laid dead or dying, and half of all texts in the Library had been stolen away to Alagadda, along with the Court.8

Approach: If you have found yourself in Alagadda, then you are already lost. Turn back, and preserve whatever remains of your soul. To bargain with the god-shaped hole is to throw yourself whole into the abyss.

But if you must go, it is said that the dreamsmiths of the Oneirioi9 whisper of a ritual that must be followed, one of tributes and offerings. Supplicate yourself on bended knee before the Throne of Sorrows, and you may be found fit to enter his halls. But what sort of price can one offer someone who holds all of the world's deepest secrets at heart? And how does the Mournful One react to one who has failed to please it?

Observations & Stories

While many stories enter Alagadda, few escape. To indulge in its hidden pleasures is well and good, but when the lamb becomes unruly, the wolves will pounce. While there have been many rumors and whispers of petitioners to the Black Vaults, only three people have been known to successfully enter the vaults.

The Fourth Priest of the Astral Seas (may his name live on only in the blackest of hearts) betrayed his kind and offered up the dying screams of his entire world, eternally preserved in a singular enduring moment.

The mysterious Knight of Flowers is said to have knelt before the Monarch of Masks and cast away its name in order to enter the vaults. One must wonder if any reward can truly be worth that price, but it is said that the Knight was sent on their way with the knowledge they had been seeking. At the very least, a begrudging respect can be paid to the Knight for a price that they alone bear the cost of.

The anartist Rachel Nguyen in comparison did not offer up anything compared to the splendor of a true name or an entire world, but instead gave a painting, said to have been completed by a man named Francisco Goya in his final days. This story bears little deviations between retellings, suggesting a seed of truth to it. What Alagadda would want with a painting is unclear, though Nguyen is known to hold sway in certain circles of Are We Cool Yet?, suggesting a grim undercurrent to the artistic movement.

Doubt

While the overwhelming majority of sources on the Sack of the Library agree on the events described, there are a few stories that claim otherwise. If these did not happen to be the oldest accounts more often than not, little truth would be associated with them.

These accounts paint a very different picture of the events, referring to it not as a Sack, but a Split. That in order to protect all who dwell within its halls, the Library allowed its most dangerous books to be whisked to Alagadda, to an isolated place for those who would destroy themselves in the pursuit of knowledge.

The very idea sounds laughable at first. But could it be true? It was first a seeker of knowledge, like any other. What of the story of the god-king Odin, who hung himself on the Tree of Life for nine days to discover its deepest secrets? Many stories shared among the crows tell a similar story, (a darker one, no doubt) of one who sacrificed himself in pursuit of dark knowledge. But to merely look at these anecdotes and to draw a conclusion from it would be rather hasty of any truthseeker. However, it brings to mind a story I heard among the shelves countless ages ago.

Once in the Library there was a Charming Warlock,10, 11 quick to make jokes and quick to make friends. One day, he thought to himself to steal a copy of the Archivist's Logs, the list of every true name of all cardholders to the Library. To steal such private information would be to consign yourself to a fate worse than death, but the Charming Warlock was always in short supply of common sense. He had someone distract the Archivists at the front desk by creating a ruckus on the other side of the Great Hall, and then went in to claim his misguided prize. Of course, his plan failed.

As the story goes, he happened to glance at the first name on the list, a name that, by position, would have been one of the first cardholders to the Library after its conception. One look at its true name was all it took to shatter him utterly, and leave him a drooling mess on the floor for the Archivists to find.

Sadly, that is where the tale ends, as the man is said to serve silently as a Docent to this day, indistinguishable from all the others. If the story was true however, if the Hanged King retains his access and was merely the vessel the Library chose to work through… perhaps we know less of these halls than we've thought.

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