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Kshaha Library

by Shataina

"I wouldn't step wit'n ten blocks o' Kshaha Square, not after th'damn hulk cut up Lorent! Deliver y'own message, y'poncy arse!"
~ Worthless Soot, street urchin, when offered a coin to bring a missive to a librarian
"Ha! Black Lark's Song is a fool for ignoring this place. This book says I need only a virgin's willing lust to complete the Ritual of Incandescent Inveiglement, not the sorcery he claimed I had to know! Now who's laughing?!"
~ Splashbreeze, incompetent thaumaturge

Residing in lonely grandeur in the aptly-named Kshaha Square, Kshaha Library is a long, low white building in the same style and material as the rest of the ancient First Age constructions of Nexus. It's simple, organically curved and undecorated save for ornate glyphs over the main doors, spelling out ATHENAEUM in large, antique script, with KSHAHA written, slightly smaller, under that. Unlike other such old buildings, however, the Library stands alone, without any modern construction for fifty feet, in the centre of a plaza paved with spotless porcelain tiles.

It's not that Nexus's citizens haven't tried to build near Kshaha Library. It's just that the Library doesn't seem to want it. Anything placed within that fifty-foot radius is relocated, sometimes to entirely unexpected places halfway across the city, by one of the strange magics the Athenaeum boasts -- no matter what the offending object's size or capabilities. Even people, such as clueless homeless, who have tried to sleep outside the Library have awoken to find themselves in an entirely different area. The only way to traverse the clear space is at a brisk walk; pausing too long will apparently lead the place to consider a person "trash" and clear them accordingly. (Clever fugitives have been known to take advantage of this by running into the plaza, pausing long enough for the random teleportation, and thereby escaping their pursuers fairly handily -- this is, of course, a risk, and some have ended up in places they really didn't want to be.)

There's also the small matter of the Razor Light, as the citizenry call it. There are certain rare people the Athenaeum simply won't tolerate -- no one knows what basis they're chosen on, although some have attempted to seek a pattern. These unfortunates, if they step within that porcelain-tiled area, die in a sudden, sharp-edged golden flare, leaving nothing but a horrendously slashed-up corpse. Since no one knows who could be an appropriate target, Kshaha Square is avoided by the vast majority of the Nexus citizenry (though many, as children, have entered the area on dares).

Within, the library is one ever-clean room, filled with hundreds of white shelves that reach clear to the ceiling. These are equipped with tall ladders and eager young Council-employed librarians that are more than willing to fetch books for those who can't comfortably do so themselves. There are also further small enchantments that make for an environment that many serious readers and writers cherish. For one, the roof, opaque from outside, is perfectly clear from inside, so that the entire place is lit by daylight when possible; if the daylight fails, or when night comes, a slow illumination seeps from the shelves, so that the place is always lit comfortably and sourcelessly. For another, noise is not just discouraged, it's impossible; even a shout will go no further than three feet before extinguishing itself in the mysterious silence. And best of all (some say), the Athenaeum not only flawlessly preserves its contents, but severely punishes damage: even an accidental tear to a page will result in a violent, debilitating shock for the offender. No permanent health problems ever result, but no one makes the same mistake twice.

The Athenaeum also has a host of extra magical effects; for example, sorcery cannot be used within its walls -- the effect dissipates before it can properly be invoked. (A Solar Circle sorcerer might be able to circumvent this restriction, but none in recorded memory have tried.) It's not a Manse, though, or at least, no visitor -- not even a magically-capable one -- has ever claimed to feel Manselike energy on or around the premises.

Unlike its sister facility, Ghallve Library, Kshaha Library is dedicated entirely to nonfiction. No matter how useful or informative a given poem, story or legend may be, if it's of questionable veracity, it's sent over to Ghallve Tower. Many scholarly battles have been joined over whether a given source ought to be considered fiction or nonfiction, and frequently the result is more a matter of which debater the Head Librarian likes more than whose argument is stronger. As a result of the academic theorizing and backbiting, a number of things that really would more properly be housed at Ghallve have ended up at Kshaha, and vice versa. The knowledgeable Nexus academic, knowing that she'll have to visit both for any given project, soon learns to keep a long list of sources and to cross-check every conceivable angle before essaying the long walk between the libraries, attempting to minimize the amount of travel necessary.

There are, of course, thousands of traditional tomes, scrolls, and so on in the Athenaeum. There's also a section for strictly magical formats. These include such things as a set of First Age stone busts that answer any question about Northern wildlife courteously and correctly; a pen that will demonstrate any form of calligraphy requested, and help any who hold it learn the same; and a black jade ring which, when placed in a clear glass bowl filled with water, will perfectly re-enact the ocean's behaviour during any sea battle named aloud. A number of knowledge-filled and educational artifacts whose use haven't quite been understood are kept there as well, and the Council offers a truly ridiculous sum to any who can decode their functions. One might think that with all these valuable magic things around, someone would try to steal them, but the lurid tales of what the Athenaeum did to the last few hopeful thieves have discouraged new attempts for over a hundred years.

Kshaha Library is public, maintained by money that comes straight from the Council of Entities, requiring nothing of its patrons but respect. The Library does not allow the removal of books, and so it doesn't charge late fees; however, it does sell snacks, ink, pens, paper, and various scholarly and scribe-related services. The money from these go to fund occasional free seminars; the location of the seminars changes, but they're never hosted in the Athenaeum -- the aggressive silence makes that impossible.


  • Kshaha Library's facilities are powered by an Earth-Aspected Manse whose workings are housed primarily under the Library (this is the ostensible reason that magical beings can't sense it). The Tunnelz, including the worm-creatures and their public-transport schedules, are intricate pieces of the geomancy of the Manse; if they are disrupted, then Kshaha Library's magical facilities could fail in terrible and unpredictable ways.
  • A persistent rumour in Yu-Shan claims that the Razor Light will destroy any Sidereals who try to enter. None can circumvent its power, not even Chejop Kejak himself, and it sees through even the most sophisticated Charms, sorcery and disguise tactics a Sidereal can muster.
  • The thaumaturge Black Lark's Song claims to refuse to visit Kshaha Library because it has nothing he doesn't already know, but in actuality, he can't visit because he knows it will destroy him. (This common Nexian rumour is often cited by certain personages who combine it with the previous rumour to insinuate that Black Lark's Song is a Sidereal.)
  • Kshaha Library is a sentient being in and of itself. "Kshaha", a term that has never been translated, is its given name, and the Athenaeum can hear you if you speak it anywhere in Nexus.
  • The head librarian is an orangutan.


The Council of Entities, as is rumoured, maintains a secret, hidden, locked and warded section of Kshaha Library. Only two librarians know of it, and they are sorcerously bound to silence. In the secret area is any and all information about the plague that decimated Old Hollow; the Council has ordered that such sources be removed from their current homes (by force if necessary) and kept under lock and key in this place. Visitors to the library who inquire about the plague are given several books prepared by the Council itself and observed closely for at least a month after their request.


The only thing I could find with a quick scan of "Scavenger Sons" was the statement that there are two public libraries in Cinnabar. A friend claims I'm missing something (he can't remember what), though, so please, let me know if you see any errors.
~ Shataina

An Orang! ^__^ -Suzume

Ook? -- OhJames

I tried to resist the Pratchett fangirlishness ... I really did. But it was too strong for me.
~ Shataina
^_^ Resistance is futile. Now, playing on a couple of sources, is one of the librarians named Cohen? ^_^-Suzume

I'm just curious, but why call it an Athenaeum? By your use, what does this word mean in a world without Athena? -Okensha

The word is derived from Athena's name, but it has little to do with her anymore. From the dictionary: "(1) An institution, such as a literary club or scientific academy, for the promotion of learning. (2) A place, such as a library, where printed materials are available for reading." I used it because I like the sound of it, really -- it has a good classical, antique feel, something I particularly like for this Athenaeum. Also, I enjoy promoting little-used words.
~ Shataina
See, this is what comes of me taking so many Classics courses this year; I was thinking of "Athenaeum" strictly in the temple-related sense. I wasn't even aware of the broader meanings. All right then, that makes things clearer, thanks. :) -Okensha
Ooh, poor thing, too many Classics courses, whatever shall we do ....
~ Shataina, entirely too depressed at being out of school ... but seriously, she envies you and hopes you enjoy them