100 Bookshelves

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Originally published in Dungeon magazine #135; “100 Bookshelves”:

<sgtable>

shelf

1,[entry].

tb

1,the books 1,the tomes

ts

1,this shelf

l

0,(aka “language”) 1,Celestial 1,Draconic 1,Dwarvish 1,Elvish 1,Goblin 1,Infernal 1,Linear A 1,old church Slavonic 1,Phoenician 1,Pictish 1,runes

q

0,(aka “quantity”) 3,[n] 1,a few 1,dozens of 1,hundreds of 1,many 1,numerous 1,several

n

0,(aka “number”) 1,three 1,four 1,five 1,several

entry

1,a “Dear John” letter, written in [l], lies here 1,a collection of delicate, spotless wine flutes stands upon [ts] 1,a collection of geodes and shiny rocks shimmers upon [ts] 1,a collection of halfling cookbooks fills [ts] 1,a deck of disturbingly illustrated cards wrapped within a silk scarf lies here 1,a dozen cookbooks focusing on ways to prepare horse sit here 1,a dozen miniature ships in glass bottles are displayed upon [ts] 1,a horizontal wooden rack for a curved sword sits empty upon [ts] 1,a large aquarium rests here. Although murky with algae, bubbles irregularly break the water’s surface 1,a long smear of red-brown ichor obscures [q] of the titles here 1,a particularly libidinous autobiography penned by a well-respected noble lies here 1,a row of scrapbooks filled with patches from children’s clothing line [ts] 1,a sculpture of a dismembered human torso divides [tb] on [ts] evenly 1,a simple hourglass and origami lily rest with [tb] upon [ts] 1,a thick green-white fungus has overgrown the [q] tomes here 1,a thick steel panel and sturdy lock protect the tomes here 1,a tome encased in a thick block of ice lies here 1,a worn box of soil filled with thick yellow grass covers much of [ts] 1,all [tb] on [ts] are fake, being nothing more than wooden carvings 1,all [tb] on [ts] are upside down 1,all [tb] on [ts] contain only pictures 1,although the tomes on [ts] are titled, the pages of each are blank 1,an ancient atlas lies open here, the maps within bearing no resemblance to the known world 1,an ornate metallic skull floats upon [ts], rotating to watch passersby 1,any book taken from [ts] immediately bursts into flames 1,bookends stylized as rampant lions rear at both ends of [ts] 1,books constructed of copper plates and perforated with Terran text line [ts] 1,books placed upon [ts] don’t age, molder or grow dusty, and can’t get wet. Two ancient tomes that look practically new attest to the shelf’s properties 1,covering [ts] is a collection of aerial navigation charts 1,death records from a nearby town, dating back nearly a hundred years, line [ts] 1,[q] crudely made stuffed animals cram [ts] 1,dried gore encrusts the shattered jars that cover [ts] 1,eighteen years of ledgers from a profitable butcher shop fill [ts] 1,filling [ts] are [q] bottles, each filled with a tiny humanoid skeleton 1,glass tubes run between pieces of alchemical equipment on this and adjacent shelves 1,here librettos from [q] well-known dwarven operas collect dust 1,[q] pages of mathematical calculations are crammed tightly into [ts] 1,[q] tiny glass animals stand frozen in silence here 1,maps of the local region line [ts] 1,minuscule claw marks crisscross [ts] 1,more than two dozen prayer books written in [l] fill [ts] 1,nearly two hundred thin, brightly colored folios line [ts] 1,[q] bottles of unlabeled multicolored liquids cover [ts] 1,[q] display bottles labeled “danger” lie shattered here, some with fresh, wet trails of goo leading from them 1,[q] framed anatomical sketches line [ts] 1,[q] holy writings line [ts], each defaced with childish and offensive charcoal drawings 1,[q] rolls of papyrus outline a particularly harsh code of laws in [l] 1,[q] roots and budding leaves sprout from [ts] 1,[q] tomes of outrageous and wholly faulty arcane theories fill [ts] 1,opening any book on [ts] targets the reader with a random 1st-level spell from the sorcerer/wizard spell list. The opened book crumbles to dust after the spell is cast 1,piles of insect carapaces lie between [tb] on [ts] 1,pungent vanilla potpourri covers the tomes here 1,rats have chewed a tunnel through, and created a next within, [tb] here 1,[q] detailed family histories line [ts] 1,[q] detailed maps of an unnamed island lie in tight rolls here 1,several dozen copies of the same priestly chapbook line [ts], each extolling the virtues of the benevolent church of Wastri 1,[q] handwritten plays fill a number of quartos upon [ts] 1,[q] large clam shells, etched with the names of onlookers, are displayed here 1,[q] rows of tightly rolled scrolls rest here 1,[q] travelogues, written in [l], sit neatly upon [ts] 1,tawdry yellowed romances form stacks upon [ts] 1,the “books” are actually a disguised drawer 1,[tb] here are all made of large white leaves 1,[tb] on [ts] are organized into perfectly fitting vertical stacks 1,[tb] on [ts] have all been reduced to ash 1,the fragments of [n] shattered marble busts lie scattered here 1,the grimoires upon [ts] are each bound in the stitched skins of sentient creatures 1,the journals here are scrawled through, repeating the word “betrayer” countless times in dark red ink 1,the pages of [tb] lining [ts] have all had their corners trimmed off 1,the small texts here fill less than half the shelf’s height 1,the text within [tb] here only reveals itself to creatures of lawful alignment. Readers of other alignments see blank pages 1,the text within [tb] on [ts] changes each time they are opened 1,the texts on [ts] comprise an extensive medical library 1,the worm-eaten texts upon [ts] fall apart if disturbed 1,this empty shelf is caked in thick layers of multicolored melted wax 1,[ts] bears a massive book with a strange starlike rune emblazoned upon the cover 1,[ts] glows if any books are taken from it, providing enough light to read by 1,[ts] has been converted into a miniature shrine to Wee Jas 1,[ts] has been fitted with sheets and a small pillow to make a tiny bed 1,[ts] has collapsed, spilling its contents onto the shelves and floor below 1,[ts] has no back. A cramped alcove lies hidden behind it 1,[ts] holds two complete quasit skeletons, each mounted on a stand 1,[ts] is filled with a variety of treatises on mining and blacksmithing 1,[ts] is filled with boxes of various kinds of fresh fruit 1,[ts] is filled with heavy tomes, each detailing a different creature, some real, some imaginary 1,[ts] is lined with books of poorly-written fiction 1,[ts] is lined with simple reading primers 1,[ts] is padded, but otherwise empty 1,[ts] is splintered inward with books crushed into its wooden backing 1,[ts] sags under the weight of a dense iron safe 1,[ts]’s books are sopping wet 1,[n] delicate porcelain dolls in elegant lace dresses sit patiently upon [ts]. Each of their faces has been deliberately sanded off 1,[n] hat boxes sit here, each containing a mummified kobold head 1,[n] massive history books fill [ts], each almost a perfect 2-foot cube 1,[n] rows of skulls, each from a different creature, rest here 1,[n] stacks of neatly folded shirts and pants lie here 1,[n] dozen volumes of excessively sentimental poetry fill [ts] 1,two pictures - one of a small girl and the other of a bifurcated skull - face each other here 1,upon opening a book on [ts], a disembodied voice begins reading from the text 1,vast portions of the history books here have been cut out

</sgtable>