Location Lore – The Archives

The Archives is probably the most significant location in The Vaetra Chronicles book series because it is the “home base” for all sorcerers as well as several of the primary characters. Multiple scenes from Vaetra Unveiled are set there.

The Archives is one of those places that will thrill you or make you shudder. My wife would be one of those who shudder because she’s a sunlight worshipper (living in North Idaho will do that to you.) She accuses me of being a bit of a cave dweller, and I suppose she’s right about that. One thing is for sure; the Archives is no place to live for the claustrophobic.

History

Vaetra Unveiled, the first book of The Vaetra Chronicles, takes place in a world named Mundia at a time when sorcery is feared and sorcerers are distrusted. Humans who are capable of performing sorcery make up a small percentage of the population, and societal pressures sometimes prevent potential sorcerers from discovering or developing their abilities.

Sorcerers try to move carefully and unobtrusively among the mundane (non-magical) people. They tend to cluster together and live in isolation. Sorcerers commonly establish remote villages or reside in one of the Sanctuary buildings within a mundane town. The largest Sanctuary in Mundia is the Archives Castle, which is located high in the mountains on an Imperial land grant.

The Archives Castle was established over 250 years before the events of Vaetra Unveiled. The founders created it as a sanctuary for sorcerers, a training center, a repository of magical devices, and a command center. The Archives Castle is administrated by the Archives Council, which is a group of five sorcerers elected to represent sorcerer interests.

Exterior Layout

When you approach the Archives Castle, the initial visual impression is that of a giant Swiss chalet being gobbled up by a mountainside. Only part of the building extends out from the ridge behind it. That portion is covered by a sharply-peaked sod roof. The face of the building reveals windows for three above-ground floors. The main entrance is centered on the front of the building and consists of  a large double door. The entrance is protected by a large, walled courtyard with a gate house straddling the main gate.

A tall, cylindrical tower extends up from the left side of the castle, connecting the wall of the lower courtyard to a second wall on the ridge above the castle. The tower has a conical roof protecting a walkway that rings the top.

Interior Layout

As soon as you step through the front entrance, you realize that the building is much larger than it initially appeared. The wide main hallway extends deep into the mountainside with several smaller hallways branching off of it.

You also realize that light is at a premium within the castle. The front windows admit the only natural light in the building. The majority of the underground structure is lit by illuminators: magical, light-producing crystals that automatically light up as you move through the hallways and extinguish automatically after you have passed.

The rooms along the exterior walls are mostly used for common areas, such as the dining hall, so all residents can enjoy access to natural light. Council Hall, where Archives Council meetings and audiences are held, is located in the exterior wall of the top-most floor.

At the far end of the main hall is a wide stairwell that gives you access to the two levels above the ground floor. The first floor above ground has the training rooms and visitor quarters. The second is entirely dedicated to Council use.

The main stairwell also gives you access to the three levels that are below ground. The first level below ground has mostly residential quarters. The second has the main library and artifact storage rooms. The third is the utility level, which is home to the castle’s magical heating system and additional storage rooms.

Environment

Most of the Archives Castle is underground because of its location high in the mountains of Lakewoods Province. Winters are long and brutal, and the geothermal benefits of underground construction outweigh the disadvantages of effectively living in a cave. Residents often joke that the castle should be called the Archives Dungeon.

The location for the Archives was granted to the founding sorcerers by the emperor of the time. The remote location had little value to the emperor, and from his perspective, it conveniently placed the sorcerers far away from the capital city.

Excerpt from Vaetra Unveiled

The following excerpt from Vaetra Unveiled features Sulana Delano, one of the protagonists in the Vaetra Chronicles series. This scene gives you a taste of what it is like to live in the Archives.

Sulana awoke from a dreamless sleep and stretched luxuriously before flipping the covers to the other side of the bed. It felt good to sleep in her own room again after nearly a week of hard travel and stressful days. She rolled over in the complete darkness and felt around for the base of the lamp on the nightstand next to her bed. She closed her eyes and channeled vaetra into it. At the top of the lamp, an igniter-crystal sparked the wick into a flame and room filled with a dim golden light. She opened her eyes into a squint, adjusting to the sudden illumination.

She sat up and looked around her small and simple chamber. It wasn’t much, but it was hers. Her room was only about twelve feet square, but it contained everything she needed: her bed, the nightstand, a dresser, an old armoire, and a small desk with a chair. The solid stone walls made it difficult to hang decorations, but she did have a beautiful tapestry on one wall that depicted the legend of Horace Gaunt, the first Sword Sorcerer and a founder of the Archives. The center of the design featured Horace on his horse with his sword raised. Around him were images related to his travels, including a rendition of the Archives Castle in the upper-right corner.

Sulana’s mother had given her the tapestry on her 16th birthday, her Day of Adulthood. She treasured it, knowing that her mother had probably spent the better part of a year’s earnings to pay for its well-wrought artwork.

She got out of bed and saw that someone had slipped a note under her door. She brought it over to the lamp and discovered that the note was from Ebnik. He wanted her to meet him in the main library at midmorning. She wasn’t sure how late she’d slept, so she quickly got dressed, extinguished her lamp, and walked confidently in the dark around the room’s obstacles to her chamber door.

Sulana’s room was deep underground, so she had no windows from which to judge the time of day. She needed to go out to one of the exterior rooms or find a suntracker along the way.

As she opened her door, a small illuminator on the opposite wall reacted to her presence and instantly lit the hallway with a bright white glow. Illuminators throughout the Archives were small half-spheres of glass, about two inches in diameter, mounted on a circular brass base with a stem that was embedded into the wall just below the ceiling. The glass focusing device drew vaetra from the stone wall through the metal stem and converted it to light when it detected a person nearby. They were extremely helpful in the dark underground hallways that made up the majority of the castle.

Sulana quietly closed the door behind her. There was something about the utter silence of these subterranean passages that made one speak in a hushed voice and tread lightly. Every sound you made seemed muffled and yet intrusive.

The hallway outside her door connected to a much wider main hallway that led to the front of the castle. She knew she’d find a suntracker on the wall where the halls met. She walked to the end of her hallway past two other doors and looked up at the wall across from her. The suntracker’s hand-sized disk was placed just above eye level, and the center-mounted indicator was pointing almost directly to the left. The enchantment that drove the suntracker followed the sun’s movement in the sky, turning the pointer around the disk to point straight up at midday and straight down at midnight.

Sulana saw that she had apparently slept longer than she thought. It was well past sunrise, but she still had time to grab something to eat before she had to meet with Ebnik. She turned right and strode down the larger passage.

*****

I hope you enjoyed this brief tour of the Archives. Of all the locations I created for the Vaetra Chronicles, this is the one I would like to personally visit the most. You’ll see a lot more of the Archives in the second book, Vaetra Untrained.

Have you created a location that intrigued you so much that you wish you could actually visit it? What was it? Please share your creation in the comments.


Comments

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Comments

  1. I love the detail and the thought you put into the Archives, and i bet a lot of it didn’t even make it into the book 🙂

  2. Very true, Sarah. I try to weave background information like this into the story as it is needed to explain some aspect of the story world or a character’s actions. But you are right; some of this stuff hasn’t yet made it into the books.

    The truth is that a lot of information about the Archives didn’t even make it into this post! I have lots more text and even a partial map of the interior. I’m trying not to publish stuff on the blog that might count as a spoiler though.

    Besides, my posts are too long as it is. 😉

  3. I like the idea of the archives. Of course having such history (two hundred plus years of it) makes me wonder that the archives have some powerful treasures somewhere in there. I’d like to know what kinds of magical treasures could be found, if there are training rooms like what the X-men go through to train magical powers, and whether or not the stones themselves are magical to contain mishaps from people who aren’t in control of their powers just yet.

    I think that the lights going on and off as each person leaves and enters is an interesting thing, but if magic doesn’t cost…why not just have the lights stay on all the time?

  4. There are indeed powerful treasures. In Vaetra Unveiled, Sulana uses a magic dagger that she got on loan from "the armory."

    You’ll learn more about the training rooms in the second book, Vaetra Untrained. I’ll probably do more posts about the Archives and sorcerer training as well.

    As for the illuminators staying on, its because there actually *is* a cost to using magic. Most sorcerers don’t like to waste vaetra if they can avoid it. The Archives itself is a giant vaetric well that takes time to replenish, so the residents try to limit the number of things that draw continuously from that well. You might say they are trying to limit the "vaetric overhead" of the facility. 😉