World Building: Sensas Bibliary
Excerpt from A Brief History of Early Humanity by Professor Marcus T.E. Godwinson, University of Theik, Knight of the Silver Cross.
The existence of the Sensas Bibliary remains to many historians an astounding achievement. For many years considered to be a myth or legend, the accidental discovery of its ruins continues to shake the academic world nearly a century later. However continuing archaeological excavations provide irrefutable proof that the Sensas Bibliary was as real a place as your local grocery store. The loss of such a magnificent depository of knowledge truly reflects the almost colossal bad luck that such massive libraries seem to attract, but I am getting ahead of myself. The history of the Sensas Bibliary truly dates back to the Change of the Starborn.
As many scholars have written, the Change almost overnight broke the Starborn Empire into disparate factions. To this day our Starborn friends appear to be irrevocably split by the change, and the gestalt entity that was their ancestors shall remain a distant memory. But I digress, for our story is about humans and their endeavors. As the Starborn Empire disintegrated into its disparate factions, Starborn relations with humans invariably suffered. While some humans were recruited to fight between Starborn factions, it remained a largely internal affair. Humans found themselves without the aid of their long-time friends and allies, and increasingly leaderless. Panic and fear gripped the human settlements, who began focusing almost entirely on immediate concerns, namely food, water, clothing, and shelter. Long distance trade and communication became almost impossible, and resources for the finer arts were simply not available.
This was truly a grim time for humanity, as slowly the lights of civilization seemed to go out across the world. The fact that increasingly scarce resources would be dedicated to the preservation of knowledge for future generations seems highly implausible, but it did happen. As with all legends there are multiple versions with conflicting narratives and details. What is common among no less than one hundred and thirty-seven such legends is generally considered to be perhaps the kernel of truth behind the Bibliary's founding.
All legends agree that Sensas the Gifted was responsible for the creation of the Sensas Bibliary, and that he was blessed with what we call today a photographic memory. Where Sensas came from remains in dispute as every culture tried to claim him for their own, but the man's geographic location is irrelevant to the story. Why Sensas was motivated to build the Bibliary and provide for its maintenance remains in dispute, some claim he was accosted with a vision that gave him the plans for this undertaking, some state that it was a strange delusion that in the end turned out beneficial, however the most widespread version comes from Sensas's remarkable memory and a remarkable gift for foresight.
Sensas was born to a wealthy merchant family that prospered under the Solarborn Empire. When time came for Sensas to take up the family business, his memory provided an incredible competitive edge. Even as the Solarborn Empire disintegrated, Sensas managed to keep a Getae-spanning enterprise running. However, it just so happened that Sensas was fond of a wine that came from the norther regions of Subimidia. This wine was especially noteworthy because the precise brewing process was a well-guarded secret. Over the years the supply of this wine became smaller and smaller until Sensas could find none for the entire cash value of his financial empire. Determined to find out what was going on, Sensas made a personal trip to the vineyards in Subimidia. Upon arriving Sensas discovered the vineyards had been abandoned, and when he asked the locals what happened, they said the last man to know the secrets of the wine had died unexpectedly at the hands of raiders last year, and the secret had died with him. Unable to duplicate the process, the villagers had abandoned the vineyard entirely. Although distraught, Sensas considered this to be the fortunes of living in such times. However, on the return journey Sensas realized that certain goods that had in his father's time been widely available, were becoming more and more difficult to obtain. So Sensas decided to collect as much information on how to create such commodities before all knowledge was lost forever.
And so the great Sensas Bibliary began simply as a collection of trade secrets motivated by economic concerns. The legends all seem to agree that Sensas began collecting stories, poems, and songs when he realized that these too were increasingly being forgotten. If the stories are to believed, Sensas penned no less than fifty volumes of stories, plays, poems, and songs he had encountered in his life recalled from his perfect memory. It seems that the project eventually snowballed and got away from Sensas as his efforts to collect more knowledge expanded. Using his extensive contacts, Sensas began collecting books, scrolls, tablets, anything and everything written down that could be added to his library. Eventually he realized a more permanent housing for his collection of knowledge would be needed.
Why "The Top of the World" was selected by Sensas remains a matter of conjecture among scholars to this day. The Sensas Bibliary was not located in the arctic zones, as the name might suggest, but rather near the summit of Mt. Kalpar, a mountian roughly equidistant from all points in Valisia, Onidia, Subimidia. Many human cultures considered it to be a ladder into the heavens and thus the literal top of the world. Perhaps Sensas believed his library would receive protection from the gods, but his reasoning remains lost. What is
known is that Sensas built a huge library complex on Mt. Kalpar, hired the scholars who, with their descendants, would maintain the Bibliary through the centuries, and arranged for the surrounding villages to provide whatever the monks needed. Astonishingly this entire process was completed within five years, and Sensas's collection was transferred within another two. It is then that Sensas fades out of the story, and the truly astounding begins to occur.
The Wardens of the Bibliary originally continued to collect as much information as possible. Collecting written documents when possible, and creating their own from oral sources. This tradition continued well after Sensas's death, until the Wardens realized no new information could be gained from the now warring tribes of humanity. Faced with the prospect of waiting many centuries for their knowledge to again become relevant, the Wardens began translating sources into all languages known to them. As languages evolved, the collection was once again translated. (The Wardens were faced with a lot
of time on their hands.) Remarkably almost all texts were instantly legible when the Bibliary was rediscovered, however the diligent translations of hundreds of Wardens of Hundreds of years is in itself not the most remarkable thing. The most remarkable being that no serious mishap occurred to the Bibliary. Yes there were minor accidents, but no fire destroyed the entirety of the library. No plague or war wiped out the villagers that grew the Warden's food. No avalanche buried the Bibliary and its Wardens, leaving it to be forgotten for all time. Over the course of nearly five centuries the Bibliary survived with no contact to the outside world.
The second most remarkable thing about the Bibliary is its re-discovery by Lintaka the Wise. Again the legends are vague and conflicting. Some say she was lead by a Warden to the Bibliary, some a divine vision, some that she just enjoyed climbing mountains. Whatever the case, Lintaka not only made the first outside contact with the Bibliary in over five centuries, but also realized how useful this library truly was. Lintaka's discovery of the Sensas Bibliary is directly attributed to the dawn of the First Age of Knowledge.
However, it seems the Sensas Bibliary had used up much of its luck just getting to the First Age of Knowledge. Within a century of its discovery, an accidental fire had destroyed most of the Bibliary and caused the site to be abandoned. Fortunately most of the knowledge had been spread by that point, but what was lost can still only be imagined. With its discovery by archaeologists, the Sensas Bibliary became much more than a myth, it became a realistic example of human achievement and our unending search for and preservation of knowledge.